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Sue Holland -- September 2000 -- Walt Disney World (ASSR) / Disney Cruise Trip


Who/When/Where:

  • Who:
    • Sue (me - 41), DVC member
    • Sheila (40)
  • Dates: September 22-30, 2000
  • Travel Method: Personal car, cruise ship
  • Resort: All Star Sports Resort (1 nt), Disney Magic (Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom, 7 nts) Experience: 2nd Disney cruise, but 6th cruise for me; 1st Disney cruise but 2nd cruise for Sheila. We're both very experienced WDW guests...my last stay was earlier this month at All Star Sports (business trip).

INTRODUCTION:

Just last month I did the 4 night Wonder cruise with my son Chris. Since he's in school, taking him wasn't a consideration for this trip - I won't pull him out of school for a vacation, and since we vacation often it's no big deal to him. As a DVC member I can use my DVC points to pay for Disney cruises, so the only cash outlay is a $75 transfer fee. I'd been very interested in the 7 night itinerary, since I've always considered cruises less than 7 nights to not be worth the bother (I enjoyed the 4 night because we were traveling with several DVC friends, but it was nowhere near long enough to feel like a "real" cruise). However, when Disney announced their 7 night itinerary I'd already made our plans for the 4 night, combined with WDW stays on either end (originally 3 nights before and 8 nights after). DVC then came out with greatly reduced rates for DVC members (reduction in the # of DVC points it would take) for 7 night cruises in September & October, so I decided to check availability. Sheila & I had met & become friends when our sons were on the same little league team several years ago. Our 2 families have vacationed together often, and we travel well together. I called her up to see if she'd be able to get a week off to do the cruise, and after checking at work she gave me some dates to work with - and I made the call to DVC. There wasn't a single veranda stateroom available, and most weeks were all out of the oceanview staterooms also....but there was one available on the 9/23 cruise so I grabbed it! Amazingly, this cruise is costing 202 points for the 2 of us....my 4 night cruise in an inside cabin cost 174 points for the 2 of us! I couldn't afford to NOT do this cruise, lol! I canceled the last 6 of the 8 nights originally booked at OKW following the 4 night cruise, since I'd now be taking a week off in September for this cruise, and switched the 2 nights I kept over to a studio (from a 1br). This freed up 198 points - so the cruise only cost me 4 points more than my original plans.

We later decided to add the night before the cruise at WDW, so I called on 9/18 and booked the night of 9/22 at All Star Sports at the AP holder rate of $66.08 including tax. Split 2 ways that was very cheap! We've both used All Stars before, and can handle the small room since it's only for 1 night. We don't have any specific plans for this day & night. Sheila mentioned Pleasure Island, I'm sure because she knows I love it there (she likes the Comedy Warehouse also), but the crowds kind of turn me off on the weekends. If she wants to go, then we'll go - but I'll let her decide where we go, since I'm here so often.

People reading this report on a message board, newsgroup or via email can expect to see day 1 posted before we sail, but the rest of the days won't get posted until at least September 30th late in the day, or sometime October 1st. Any pictures won't be in photopoint until October 1st, most likely. If you're reading this on an egroups (formerly onelist) list on digest version and the days get so long they create downloadable files, you can wait & read the report in it's entirety on Brian Bennett's trip report archive at www.mouseplanet.com - probably by late October. Ok, housekeeping details out of the way - here are the plans so far...

  • Fri 9/22: - Drive to All Star Sports in the morning, visit park(s)
  • Sat 9/23: - Drive to Port Canaveral, board Disney Magic, set sail to Caribbean
  • Sun 9/24: - Day at sea, Captain's Gala Dinner (formal)
  • Mon 9/25: - Day at sea
  • Tue 9/26: - St Maarten, Island Night Dinner
  • Wed 9/27: - St Thomas
  • Thu 9/28: - Day at sea, Master Chefs Dinner (formal)
  • Fri 9/29: - Castaway Cay, International Dinner
  • Sat 9/30: - Disembark, Spend day at WDW, drive home

DAY 1 - FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2000:

Plan: Drive to All Star Sports in the morning, visit park(s)

Actual: Last night Sheila has suggested we leave between 8 & 9 am, and since she's driving I told her I'd be ready by 8! Packing was a chore for some reason. I used to pack well in advance, excitedly anticipating each trip. Now, between vacations and business trips it seems like I'm always getting ready to go, or just back, so the packing has become a chore that I put off longer & longer. I still love the trips though <g> - I just need someone to pack for me!

I got up at my usual time in order to get stuff done online. Chris left for school and Sheila arrived about 8:30. We loaded up the car and began the drive, stopping at Walmart briefly to buy some heavy plastic tape to tape the luggage tags to her boxes of water. That's right...boxes...as in more than one, lol! Last night Chris' dad was teasing me because I have a big box filled with bottled water - plus another 12 pack that I was breaking up and packing in different bags. Sheila showed up with 3 boxes, each containing 12 bottles of water! Between us we've probably got the equivalent of 72-80 bottles. We shouldn't have to worry about being deydrated, lol! We'll have the porters take all 4 boxes along with our luggage when we arrive at the terminal. No point in us lugging around all that extra weight!

We made one quick stop at a rest area. Normally I don't ever stop, so I'm not familiar with what these places look like. I was surprised to see stainless steel toilets and sinks...it reminded me of jail (not that I've ever been arrested) or an institution. We arrived at All Star Sports just after noon and were able to get into a ready room. All of my requests were met also - non smoking, top floor. I hadn't requested a section figuring since we were only here 1 night I didn't care how far away we might be, but we were in building #2 - Hoops Hotel (basketball). Our building is directly behind the Surf's Up building, so we're very close to the food court & bus stop. The room itself is ok - nothing special. For the money, it's adequate. It cannot compare to OKW though. We dropped the luggage off in the room and immediately headed out. There are LOTS of love bugs up here. We don't seem to have any at home, on the coast, but here inland they are just swarming in certain areas.

We walked to the food court to look for lunch ideas. The food court here just doesn't stack up next the one at All Star Movies or some of the moderates, but Sheila found a turkey wrap in the market stand so we decided to share that. After the Disney Dining Experience (DDE) 20% discount it was $2.99, so lunch cost us each $1.50! Who says WDW is expensive??? The wrap was excellent - turkey, bacon, lettuce & tomato rolled up in a flour tortilla. Half of it was perfect for each of us.

Over lunch we discussed our options and decided to head to MK even though normally we'd declare that anyone arriving at MK in the late morning or afternoon needs to have their head examined! We were only interested in a couple of things, and figured if it was too crowded we'd just leave. The MK bus was waiting for us, and once there we stopped to exchange Sheila's AP voucher for the actual pass before entering the Magic Kingdom. By now it was barely 1pm I think. Main Street was almost deserted, but we later realized it was because everyone was in Fantasyland (ugh).

First stop was the watch shop - looking for a Goofy pocketwatch for Sheila's nephew, but no luck. We headed to Space Mountain and got some fast passes (yes, we know how to cheat the system so we got 2 each). The return time was in less than an hour, and the standby line said 20 minutes. We didn't feel like waiting 20 minutes for anything, so we wandered through Fantasyland but didn't ride anything there due to the awful crowds. We continued to Haunted Mansion and did that attraction, then walked back to Tomorrowland and rode the TTA. By then we were in our fastpass time, so we went to Space Mountain. The standby wait said 30 minutes, but there was nobody in line at all...all the way to the loading area! We felt like we'd basically wasted that fastpass, but it's no big deal. We rode the right side first, and then went out and got back in the standby line for a 2nd ride.

This time we happened to get behind an older couple. He walked fairly quickly, but she was very slow, and was huffing & puffing, so we probably would have been better off in the fast pass line, lol! The woman also absolutely REEKED of stale cigarette smoke! I'm real sensitive to that, but even Sheila commented that it was positively disgusting - this was way beyond what someone who'd had a cigarette just before getting in line would smell like....it was unbelievable. We let others go ahead of us to put some distance between her & us, it was that bad. We rode the left side this time, and then I used my fastpass for a 3rd ride while Sheila sat out. Twice was enough for her. I requested & got the front seat for my final ride - that's always fun (but not as much fun as Space Mountain in Disneyland).

There wasn't anything else we wanted to do at the MK, so we decided to head to Epcot. First we stopped at the Main Street Bake Shop and bought a piece of banana nut bread to share for tomorrow's breakfast ($2.11). The monorail was waiting for us, so we got on and rode to the TTC to transfer to the Epcot monorail. We rode up front with the driver on the way to Epcot, along with an off-duty Epcot cm.

We went to Test Track first, and were surprised that they not only still had fast passes, but the time was less than an hour away! We got 1 each, just in case we wanted to use them for a 2nd ride, and then got into the single rider line. Single rider is definitely the way to go - when we saw the long line of fast pass people in the loading area we decided we wouldn't be using the fast passes after all. The wait is significantly longer than single rider, and we don't have to sit next to each other to enjoy the ride. After the ride we checked in Mouse Gears but didn't find a Goofy pocketwatch. We checked the pin cart, but there wasn't anything new since my last trip 2 weeks ago (I'm not a collector or trader; I was looking on behalf of a friend). At the DVC booth I got to talking with a real friendly cm there - he asked how many DVC points I owned, and was quite surprised by my answer (840). He commented that I must vacation all the time, and I guess compared to the average person it must seem that way <g>. We chatted with him for a while, and then continued on our way to World Showcase.

We really didn't have any particular destination in mind - we were just walking. We decided a walk around the Beach Club, Yacht Club & Boardwalk would be nice, so we exited at International Gateway. There was a small wedding taking place on the beach at BC - but the guests were wearing shorts & tee shirts! The bride & groom were a little more dressed up, but not in traditional tux/gown. When we got back to Int'l Gateway our passes gave an "access denied" message because it hadn't been that long since we'd left the park. The cm pushed the buttons to let us in, though.

We continued walking around World Showcase, and on the 2nd loop (yep, we were just walking & walking) we stopped at Tangierine Cafe for dinner. I got my usual - tomato/cucumber salad and a glass of white wine ($5.83). Sheila got the tomato/cucumber salad, kid's chicken breast sandwich & a soda. I loved my dinner - and she enjoyed hers also. It started to rain just as we were finished, so we disposed of our trash and started walking again (with umbrellas this time). Back in Future World we stopped by Innoventions to see if a DVC friend (Hugh) was working, but he wasn't. We did send an electronic postcard to a baseball friend, then rode Spaceship Earth. Afterwards we both agreed that it would be real easy to fall asleep on that ride - not that it's boring, it's just the movement of the cars. We actually both like the ride. I found myself thinking of other things - day dreaming of a recent dream I'd had being stranded on an island off the coast of FL, lol. Perhaps it was the Morroccan wine <g>.

It was raining more heavily when we got off, so we decided to leave Epcot. Sheila wanted to check World of Disney for the watch, so we took the Port Orleans bus and transferred there to Downtown Disney. Pretty much all day the bus we wanted was either waiting for us or pulled in just after we got there - it was nice. At the Marketplace it was raining really hard. We stopped in Gourmet Pantry to see if DVC friend Arlene was working, but she'd already gone home for the day. I did buy a mile chocolate Mickey truffle ($.43) for later. We went to Ghiradelli for a nonpareil sample and Sheila bought some small chocolates. They have filled chocolate bars now - I'll have to check them out on a future trip...like next month :-) I saw milk chocolate with double chocolate fudge filling, and also milk chocolate with orange chocolate filling - those 2 sounded the best to me!

We went to World of Disney next, but no pocketwatch. Sheila saw a WDW 2000 black backpack she liked, and it turned out to be 1/2 off ($16.99). I gave her my mkc card to use, and she bought it. We wandered around a little bit, but didn't buy anything else. We walked to Pleasure Island but didn't go in because I left my pass at home thinking we weren't going to bother with it tonight. Instead, we took the bus back to All Star Sports and made it an early night.

Back in the room we checked out our stuff for tomorrow, and I consolidated my stuff so I'd be carrying less onto the ship myself (Sheila did the same). I crawled under the covers on my bed to write up the report, while Sheila read over the sample 7 day Personal Navigator on her bed and fell asleep before 9pm! Hopefully the sound of the modem when I go online won't disturb her!

This is the last installment until Saturday 9/30 at the earliest.

Miles walked: Ooops - must have left the pedometer at home

DAY 2 - SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2000:

Plan: Drive to Port Canaveral, board Disney Magic, set sail to Caribbean

Actual: We'd planned to leave for the port at 10:30, and weren't planning to try to squeeze in any park time before then, so it was a nice relaxing start to the day. I got up just before 7:30, showered, and got online. Sheila got up while I was in the shower, and she got ready in no time at all. LOL - she was ready to go, suitcase all zipped up, etc by 8am or so. I guess she's looking forward to the cruise! We had cappuccino and banana nut bread for breakfast, and just hung around the resort until it was time to leave. We managed to eliminate our carryon bags by stuffing our suitcases fuller <g> and instead just carried our swimsuits in a backpack or tote bag. We figured that way we could lay by the pool even if the luggage was late arriving.

We drove using 417 rather than route 528 - it's a much more pleasant drive and worth the extra expense. The drive was just over an hour, and we pulled up to let the porter unload our luggage and water - he didn't even blink an eye at the water! We parked the car and were inside the terminal shortly before noon. I was shocked at the huge crowd and long line inside. Since we arrived so early last time I'd missed the crowds then! The entire roped off queue area was filled in, and the line extended all the way across the terminal to the top of the escalators and then looped around part way a 2nd time! We checked in, and it was nice to learn that although we're sharing a cabin each of our keys will charge to our own credit card - no bill to figure out later. It'd be nice if the WDW resorts could handle that - although actually I seldom have a roommate (prefer to have my own room) but it could benefit others.

We got in line, and I met a nice DVC family who'd just come from a couple of days at OKW. They'd cruised the Magic 2 years ago. Boarding started, but it was still quite a while before we got up there. As you may recall, last month we were taken from our sofa and whisked past all the waiting passengers to be one of the very first people on board the ship....no special treatment this time, lol! Once onboard we went immediately to the cabin. They tell you your cabin won't be ready until 1:30, but I knew better. The cabin is nice, and I later took a few pictures for photopoint. The porthole is very large, and the view of the water is great! I was thrilled to find a gift on the bed - a Disney Magic picture frame and an invitation to a reception Monday before dinner. Also, there was a bottle of champagne on ice, to me from Disney Cruise Line (not sure why) with a note to have a magical cruise. I got nothing on my last cruise, so this was really nice (it got even better later). We picked up our meal tickets and Personal Navigator, and dropped off the stuff we didn't want to carry around, then went up to Parrot Cay for lunch.

At Parrot Cay the doors were closed and a cm was directing people up to deck 9 for Topsiders - Parrot Cay was full. We climbed up the 6 flights to Topsiders and found a huge line there on both sides. They had a fruit, cookie & ice cream buffet outside at Scoops, which is what I should have done! While we were in line at Topsiders a cm starting telling people they would have a shorter wait if they went to Parrot Cay, which had just opened up again, lol! I asked Sheila what she wanted to do, and she suggested we just stay in line where we were. The food was nothing special. I don't like shrimp, and the rest of the stuff was just ordinary. I think I had a few bites of Greek salad, some thai pork noodle thing & the cm carving roast beef insisted I take at least a small piece of that. Oh yes, I also had one of their wonderful chocolate chip cookies <g>. Sheila had the shrimp, some turkey & roast beef which she made into a sandwich, a little chicken and a chocolate chip cookie (at my recommendation). We had to hunt for a table, and were surrounded by screaming little kids (ugh). I swear, next time I do a Disney cruise I'm not bothering with the buffet lunch on boarding day. Some fruit, a cookie, maybe a piece of pizza would have been much better and much more pleasant.

After lunch we made our dinner reservations for Palo, then checked the stateroom but the luggage hadn't arrived yet. We filled out the paper to sign up for our shore excursion, after deciding which ones were most of interest. Of course the 2 that I wanted were on the same day at the same time, so it was tough to choose. Both are on the St Thomas day - one's a mountain bike trip on Water Island, and the other is an eco-hike on St John. We ended up chosing the bike trip, but selected the hike as a 2nd choice if we don't make it into the bike trip. On St Maarten we'll just take a cab to a beach and then do a little shopping - none of the excursions were of interest (neither of us wants to snorkel).

We dropped the shore excursion form off on our way to the 2:30 walking tour of the ship. The guide was really good, and we hit all the public areas of the ship. It provided a good overview for Sheila, and I learned something that made me very happy. On Beat Street (the adult nightclub area), there are non-smoking areas! Off Beat, the dueling piano bar is completely NON SMOKING - YAY!! I'd avoided the one on the Wonder assuming that smoking was allowed. Also, the front half of Rockin' Bar D is non smoking, but smoking is allowed in the back half (when we walked by later though, you could smell the stench in the hallway, so I'm not sure I'd last more than a minute in there). Preludes is the quieter piano bar, and that's totally non smoking also. This was wonderful news! Also, the Magic has an Internet Cafe where you can do email now. It just opened a couple weeks ago, and is open 24 hours a day. I'll have to check later to see what the price is.

After the tour we went to the spa. Sheila had said she was interested in doing some fitness stuff, so we went to sign up for some of the classes. We plan to do the walk a mile thing most mornings, and also signed up for 2 step classes and an aqua aerobics class. You've got to sign up in advance or you don't get in. We also each made an appointment for a Body Composition Analysis, which is the thing I did last month on the Wonder. It measures your body fat %, amount of water, and metabolic rate. I'm curious to see if drinking all the water the spa person advised has changed my reading any. We made those appointments for tomorrow.

Back at the stateroom our garment bags and water had arrived, but not the 2 suitcases. In fact, we had an extra box of water that belonged to someone else. Rather than taping their tag to the box they must have put the tag on top of one of the bottles (stupid thing to do) because I found the tag inside the box. It belonged in a cabin down 1 deck, so we left it outside in the hall figuring we could run it downstairs after we unpacked. The rest of the luggage came and we were able to almost finish unpacking before we had to get our life jackets and go up to deck 4 for the miserable safety drill. It was hot, it was crowded, it was long, kids were fussing, it was pretty awful. I was so glad when it was over.

We returned to the stateroom and grabbed the evening clothes that needed ironing (about 1/2 of them, unfortunately) and went to the laundry room to take care of that before all the other guests thought of the same thing. Some guy stopped by and asked if we were taking requests...could he drop off his clothes - yeah, right pal! I told him as long as he left his room key with charging priveleges in his pocket I'd take his clothes, lol! We returned to our stateroom, and Allan our steward stopped by to check on things. He also brought me a paper to sign, saying I had a $100 shipboard credit on my account - yet ANOTHER gift, lol! I was flabbergasted, to say the least. Here I spend $75 for a cruise for 2 people and they turn around & give me $100...I could almost make a living doing this, lol!

By now it was getting close to 5pm, so we headed up on deck to watch the ship sail away. On the way out we saw a luggage guy delivering luggage, so I told him about the water that belonged to the other cabin. When I picked up the box though, there were only 2 bottles left (out of 12)!! People had stolen the other 10 bottles - we couldn't believe it!! It's a good thing we got to our water when we did, lol! We're staying on a high crime deck it seems. Up on deck 9 the sail away party was still going on, but I'm not crazy about those things and Sheila also was more interested in going to the front of the ship up on the sports deck (top deck). At 5pm the ship's horn blew the notes to When You Wish Upon a Star, which I don't recall ever hearing on the Wonder last month - guess I wasn't paying attention. Then we starting moving forward down the channel and into the Atlantic Ocean. It was very windy, but beautiful. People were along the beach shouting & waving to people on the ship.

We stayed up on deck for a while, then returned to the stateroom to dress for dinner at Lumiere's. The Personal Navigator said tonight was casual at all restaurants, even Lumiere's, but it didn't seem right to not dress up for that dining room. Having the split bath in the cabin is wonderful - we each have a bathroom to change in, with mirror, etc. No waiting for one person to finish in the bathroom so the other one can use it. Sheila wore a pretty skirt/sweater set, and I wore an almost ankle length dress - many others also dressed up, but some went casual. I hope the few people in shorts or jeans just hadn't gotten their luggage yet!

We met Arlene & Alan from Georgia, our table mates. We were at a table for 6, but the other 2 seats weren't assigned to anyone yet. If nobody gets put there tomorrow night (people requesting to change their rotation or seating time) then it'll just be the 4 of us for the rest of the week. Our head server is Jelidi from France, assisted by Willy from the Phillippines. Jelidi gave us all the inside tips on what's best on the menu, since he's French. Things were a little slow at first, but service was very attentive and they were very nice. Our glasses were never allowed to get empty, and once the food was ordered it came out at a good pace - not too slow, not too fast. Arlene & Allan were good dinner companions - they've traveled quite a bit, including Paris and have been to both of our ports several times. They mentioned several places worth seeing on St Maarten and gave some tips on St Thomas as well.

For dinner I started with a mixed greens salad, which was good but much bigger than a normal cruise ship salad was. Alan also had it, and neither of us ate it all. It did come with toasted french bread with goat cheese spread on it - and it was delicious! I'd never tried goat cheese, and like it alot. Sheila had melon balls with port wine sauce, and she said the fruit was very ripe & delicious, and she couldn't taste the wine much at all. I think Arlene had the shrimp medley, which was shrimp of different sizes on something (sorry for being vague). Arlene & I both got the garlic roasted beef tenderloin with mashed potatoes and some spicy vegetable medley - at Jelidi's recommendation. Once again, the portion was much too large, but the beef was tender & delicious, and the mashed potato was good. I don't touch vegetables, lol, so I can't comment on them. Sheila got the herb crusted sea bass, which she devoured while raving about how wonderful it was! Alan had the roast duck l'orange, and declared it the best duck he'd ever had - even better than in France itself. It was served off the bone...so it was easy to eat also.

Dessert was also great. I'd ordered the apple tart, which was basically about 1/2 of a cored apple on top of a thin layer of puff pastry, with vanillas sauce on the side. It was delicious, and I ate every bite. The other 3 each got the souffle with grand marnier chocolate sauce. I don't like alcohol flavor in my food, so I was leery of that one, but I tried a bite of Sheila's and it was wonderful!! It was quite a bit heavier than my tart though, so in a way I'm glad I didn't order it. It was the first time I'd ever tried a souffle, and will most likely get one in Palo later in the week. The head waiter stopped by and talked to us briefly. I impressed him with my command of the french language by saying "ooh la la" - lol! He gave us our tickets to a character breakfast at 8am Monday morning...not sure if we'll bother or not. I'd assumed the character breakfast would be something you'd sign up for if you wanted to do it, but I was wrong. I asked him which characters would be there and he said not Mickey because he sleeps until noon, and not Minnie because she'd be with Mickey, lol! I always knew those 2 weren't as squeaky clean as they pretend to be!

After dinner we walked one lap on deck 4 (1/4 mile) and then went down to check the stateroom. Allan was next door and told us he'd already serviced ours. We had no towel creature, and he'd only turned down the big bed. I went out and told him we'd need the 2nd bed set up. Neither of us was interested in sharing a bed (thank goodness), so we agreed (actually Sheila suggested) that she'd take the sofa bed and I'd get the queen bed. If hers is uncomfortable at all we'll switch 1/2 way through the week, or sooner.

We went back upstairs and I got a bunch of pins for 2 pin trader friends. I'll get more another day. The pin trader person was quite busy, with the guests hovering like vultures over the various DCL pins (me too, but not FOR me, lol). We went to the Walt Disney Theater and got good seats about 10-15 minutes before the show started. Tonight was a new show - a Welcome Aboard Variety Show. They started with cm's from each area being introduced - by the way DVC cruisers, the cruise director we had on the Wonder last month is here now. Next was a pretty good magician/ventroliquist named Michael Harrison. His act started out kind of slow, but when he brought out his "dummy" pet vulture named Sydney it got pretty funny! Next was the GREAT Dan Riley, who creates & sings goofy parodies of famous songs. He was hysterical! He'll be performing different songs & stuff later in the cruise, so if he's in a non smoking area we'd like to see it. The finale was "Be Our Guest" from Beauty & the Beast, performed by 4 waiters and 4 waitresses. I recognized one of the guys as a performer on the Wonder last month. At the end of the song the main characters came out and did a little rockettes-style dance line thing with the performers, and the there were twirling sparklers, bubbles, and finally confetti & streamers (this part just down front). Overall I really enjoyed this show, and liked it better than the 2 I saw last month (Voyage of Ghost Ship and Disney Dreams). I realize it's almost sacriligious to suggest that Disney Dreams is any less tha sheer perfection, nirvana, whatever - but I wasn't that impressed with it. I'll only be seeing it again to keep Sheila company assuming she wants to see it. At the show tonight there were many, many people who left with their kids during the show. That was rather distracting.

After the show we browsed in the shops. I found a cute black fitted tee shirt with a small cruise line logo embroidered on the front - later I tried it on and it's absolutely perfect - and also a pewter Disney Magic refrigerator magnet. Sheila got herself a shirt that was 50% off, which also had the logo. We decided to walk around deck 9, and then headed up to deck 10 to check the ESPN store. She was shocked at the cigarette stench coming down the stairs from the bar - I'd warned her earlier but I'm sure she figured I was exaggerating. At the ESPN store she ended up getting a duffle bag thing and a keychain for Colin (her son), that also says Disney Cruise Line. We finished walking around the deck and were going to call it a night but on the stairs decided to check out Off Beat to see how the dueling piano thing was going.

We went inside, and soon decided to stay a while - these guys were very good, and great fun! I was a little shocked at some of the stuff they said; this was billed as "adult", but being Disney I had my doubts, lol! They got more sexually suggestive than the Comedy Warehouse actors can, but everyone (including me) found it very funny. More people kept coming in, until it was almost standing room only. Around 10:45 or so I left to go back to the stateroom to start working on the day's report...since I hadn't had time all day.

In the stateroom I downloaded the digital pictures, and got changed. Sheila came back a while later & I showed her the pictures. She read for a while, then went to bed. I finished up the report after 12:30...it takes a long time, but I'd regret it even more if I put it off, and I really prefer to write it up while the details are fresh in my mind! We never talked about breakfast, so we haven't ordered any room service. I do have the hot pot and we have our cappuccino mixes, so that will get us started at least. It really feels like this day has been a blur....we've been on the go constantly, taking care of details for the rest of our cruise. I stayed up until about 1am looking over tomorrow's Personal Navigator, trying to figure out how to fit in everything I want to do!

DAY 3 - SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2000:

Plan: Day at sea, Captain's Gala Dinner (formal)

Actual: We both slept great last night! The sound of the water and the quiet hum of the engine was soothing "white noise" and a pleasant reminder that we were cruising. I think we were both awake by 7 (purposely slept with the drapes open - no point in having an outside cabin if you're going to hide the view, lol), and Sheila said her bed was very comfortable so I guess we'll stay with the arrangement we've got. The sun rose on the other side of the ship, so it'll be on our side for the 2nd half of the week. We took quick showers and made some cappuccino, then climbed the stairs up to deck 10 to get our lounge chairs. It's tough work climbing up 8 decks, but we're determined to burn as many calories and get as much fitness in as possible (without spending the week in the gym, too). We're huffing & puffing by the time we get up top, and our leg muscles are screaming, but it'll either get easier by the end of the week or it'll kill us.

We decided to check out Topsider's buffet. I'd sort of planned to eat after the walk a mile thing, so I only had a bite or 2 of fruit and a 1/2 english muffin (and would regret it later). Sheila ate light, but more substantially than me. It was extremely windy out on deck, but we didn't mine. Our assistant server Willy was working Topsiders so we said good morning to him. As soon as we finished eating it was time to climb down to deck 4 for the Walk a Mile. Fitness instructor Alina led it, and it was unlike any walk I'd done on any ship. Normally the instructor stays in 1 spot while everyone walks 4 laps at their own pace. Today she had us walk single file and while we were walking she had us doing upper body workout stuff. The lead person kept a rapid pace, and 5 of us kept up with her. The rest lagged behind after the 2nd lap, but that was ok - there wasn't any prize for finishing first. Alina had us do a 5th lap as a cool down, and then some stretching stuff. It was a good walk, but I was disappointed they didn't give out pins for doing it, like on the Wonder last month. I got to talking to 2 of the people at the front of the line, and it turns out they each live in one of the places I lived in when I was in New Jersey! It was fun talking about how those areas had changed in the past 14 years.

After the walk we went down to the stateroom to switch from sneakers to Tevas, and Allan had just finished servicing our cabin. He handed us our shore excursion envelope - we got the mountain bike trip!

We climbed the stairs back up to deck 10 and went down to the adult pool - yikes, that water is cold! Actually, all the pools are pretty cold. We sat on the bench and only got our feet wet, then returned to our lounge chairs and sat in the sun for about 20 minutes or so. The sun felt great, and the strong breeze kept it from feeling too hot. A young (20's) guy came and set up chairs directly in front of us, then went to light up a cigarette. Since we were down wind, I went to him & asked if he'd mind swapping locations with us since the smoke would bother us where we were. He was extremely nice, and said he'd just step over to the side and behind us when he smoked! I told him we didn't want to make him get up each time he wanted to smoke (smoking is allowed on the deck), but he said it was no problem & he didn't smoke very much anyway. Wow - that was nice! I thanked him, and went back to my chair.

At 10:30 we went to a seminar in the spa about how to Eat More and Weigh Less. It was the usual spiel about eating several small meals per day, exercise 3 days a week, and watch your fat intake. We went because attending got us a $10 discount on the Body Composition Analysis we'd both signed up for. We dashed over to the 11:00 Behind the Scenes session led by Dan Stamper. He's the Music Director for Walt Disney Entertainment and was nominated for an Emmy award for "Outstanding Music Direction" for a superbowl halftime show. This is supposed to be for passengers age 13 and older, yet the cm's didn't do anything to prevent some idiots from bringing their fussy noisy babies/toddlers into the theater...where they proceeded to disrupt the talk. There was also a young girl wandering around in front of the first row, but at least she was quiet. My biggest gripe with Disney would be their lack of enforcing their own rules/guidelines! Anyway, the session was fair at best. Dan just wasn't a dynamic speaker, so it kind of dragged. I don't plan to attend the 2nd in his series, and I came onboard expecting to absolutely love this program. Sheila also felt it was boring. I think it would have been better with more slides/video and less talking. It turns out one of the piano players from last night is Dan's younger brother - both dueling piano players were in the audience.

From here we ran back up to deck 9 (only from deck 5 so it was a very easy climb) and checked out Topsiders. Since we'd never had time for more breakfast, I was pretty hungry. Nothing on the buffet looked particularly wonderful though, and I only had about 10 minutes before my next activity, so we went to the dessert area. I got a banana and a chocolate chip cookie. Sheila got a piece of blueberry cheesecake that she raved about (I tried a bite, thought it was ok), a banana, and a piece of chocolate mousse cake for us to share. The mousse cake was a disappointment though, so we didn't eat it. We did use our bananas to eat the layer of chocolate fudge on the mousse though - that was good, like a chocolate fondue! So much for healthy eating.

I had to rush to my 12:15 appointment at the spa for a Body Composition Analysis, while Sheila went to lay on her lounge chair. Body Composition Analysis (in case I haven't described it before - apologies if this is a repeat) measures your % body fat, % water, and metabolic rate. It also gives you a target for each of those, depending on your body size, and a weight target. Since I'd just done it last month, this time went quickly since I didn't need all the explanation. I'd chosen to repeat it because my results were pretty poor last time, and I'd been making a sincere effort to drink lots more water and eat more food during the last 6 weeks. Happily, my results showed significant improvement. My target for body fat was 22%, and I went from 27.8% last time to 23.5% now. My metabolism target is 1141 calories a day, and I went from 1046 to 1119 - almost where I should be! I've got about 1 pound too much fat, which isn't bad, and my weight is fine. The water is still low, though - the target is 70%, and my reading went from 53.7% up to 55.5%. This is despite drinking 8-10 full glasses per day for the past 6 weeks and spending lots of time running to the restroom after drinking that much, lol! Alina said to keep on drinking, try to drink more (LOL - more???) and keep exercising. I'll do the BCA again on my next Disney cruise, provided I don't slip back into my old bad habits.

I went back to the lounge chair - Sheila was sitting watching jellyfish down in the ocean. We talked about the BCA, then it was time for her to get hers done (1pm). Hers went well - better than she expected, so she was happy. We sat on our lounge chairs chatting and watching the ocean go by - it was soooooo nice out there! I'm absolutely loving this cruise!! Eventually we decided the hell with calories, the hell with our BCA, a mudslide sounded really good right about now. I went down to the stateroom to get our ESPN mugs and made the 8 deck climb back up. At Outlook Bar the cm made the drink - in the big mug we got double the alcohol yet it's the same price as a regular size drink ($4.50 & tip). She made too much, and so she gave me the "leftover", which almost filled a 16 oz cup!! Yikes - good thing we're sharing. Sheila said she'd be tripping down the stairs otherwise (it was pretty strong). It was delicious - her first one. FYI - a mudslide is Kahlua, Bailey's irish cream, vodka, lowfat ice cream mix, and ice. The glass is coated with chocolate syrup before the drink is poured in - it's like a yummy but potent mocha milkshake!

The Goofy's pool party started at 2pm - we could hear the music but had absolutely zero interest in going over there with all the kiddies and characters. At 2:30 the adult games started at our pool, so we stood by the railing and watched them. The final game was the belly flop competition - there was a slender guy who made a big splash, but then a beer belly guy beat him to win the medal. Those of us watching gave them scores - 1 to 5 fingers to decide the winner. It was fun, and they did the same stuff on the Wonder last month also.

About 3pm I returned to the stateroom to shower & get ready for the evening. I don't actually require

that

much maintenance, lol - but I wanted to get the trip report done up to this point and then free up the shower for Sheila. She stayed to go in the adult pool and then stopped by Bingo. She ended up not playing, since it wasn't going to start on time and she was concerned about being too rushed. We got our showers out of the way and dressed for formal night - the Captain's Gala Dinner. First though, we had a DVC members social to attend, and then concurrently there was the Captain's cocktail reception. Busy night! On the way to the stateroom, my perfect day got even better....I saw the dinner menu. The appetizers & entrees were no thrill to me - twin lobster tails, filet mignon...who cares about that! One of the desserts was warm chocolate lava cake with double chocolate sauce!!!!! Woohoo - I've heard of this at Flying Fish, and people rave about how wonderful it is...possibly the single best dessert in all of WDW, so I was thrilled to see it on the menu!

We both wore black tonight. Sheila wore a pretty dress with some beadwork and mesh up by the neckline - very nice. I wore a backless cocktail dress - kind of a 2nd skin, which I was having second thoughts about knowing that dessert was waiting for me. However, I figured it would only get worse as the week went on, lol, and I needed to save any looser items for the end!

We headed up to the DVC social hour just before 5. It was held in Rockin' Bar D in the adult entertainment district. Several DVC members attended. They served wine, champagne or soda, and had some snacks on the tables. I got some white wine, and Sheila had red wine. Once everyone was there, guide Gib talked briefly and then made us all stand up and go to a table next to ours to meet some new people. We met a nice couple from Maryland who'd just joined this past summer. They were used to spending a fortune to stay at places like the Grand Floridian and plan to use their membership to bring their grandchildren to WDW on vacations. We chatted quite a while - she's a real beach person and was interested in trying Vero Beach so I told her DVC was running a special discount on Vero points right now. Turns out they're on aol also, and I'll send them the link to our boards and DVC chat - their screen name is jrschafe@aol.com in case anyone sees them there. The DVC guides also gave us all gifts...DVC hats. We left to put the hats in the stateroom before going to the Captain's reception.

The Captain's reception was a bit of a letdown. I'd expected wine & champagne, but instead they had a couple of mixed drinks. Not wanting to mix wine with other stuff, we decided to just head back to the DVC social for another glass of cold wine (our 1st glass we'd left on the table there). Once we got our wine we ran into the other DVC guide, who gave us 2 more DVC hats, lol! I ran down to put them in the stateroom while Sheila held our glasses of wine at the Captain's reception. We were in line but when we realized it was a line for pictures (not with the Captain) we left it. Neither one of us was interested in purchasing a picture of the 2 of us, lol! I talked to the cruise director, who'd been on the Wonder last month. She floats back & forth between the 2 ships. Most of the officers were standing around - mostly handsome young men in white uniforms <g>.

We got in line for dinner, and ate at Animator's Palate tonight. All 3 restaurants were serving the same menu, the Captain's Gala Dinner. I was thrilled to see that many men chose to wear tuxedos and most of the rest wore dark suits according to the dress code. There were a few jerks who chose to wear a polo shirt with casual slacks and frankly they really looked stupid and out of place! But, I guess for some people the rules/common courtesy and respect for fellow passengers just doesn't apply (sarcasm intended).

Arlene & Alan were there, and it was to be just the 4 of us for the duration of the cruise. Alan looked handsome in his tuxedo, and Arlene was wearing a pretty green dress. We had a wonderful meal with them - they're such experienced travelers, and have a great sense of humor! I started with the fresh fruit cup with honey orange blossom sauce - not great, but ok. Sheila got the salad, Arlene the fruit and Alan the baked clams - which he said were very good. I didn't want a main entree, since I'd need room for my dessert. I asked Jelidi if I could just have the appetizer mixed greens salad for my meal he suggested a number of different things (concerned that I just didn't like anything on the menu) so I told him if they could add some cut up chicken breast that would be fine - otherwise just the salad was plenty. Sheila & Arlene each got the twin lobster tails and Alan got the halibut, and they all proclaimed their meals to be great. My salad was perfect - the kitchen had cut up a chicken breast, and the portion of it I ate was just right. On this cruise Jelidi and Willy are much more accomodating and attentive than our servers were on the last cruise - it's really nice! Jelidi is very personable too, lots of fun. Finally it was time for dessert - the highlight of my day, for sure! Alan got the cherries jubilee, which was not flamed tableside (they do it at a station up front) but he said it tasted great. The rest of us got the warm chocolate lava cake with double chocolate sauce. Oh my, what can I say??? If ever there was a food item that was absolute perfection, this would have to be it! I couldn't believe how good it was...and wished I could have licked my plate clean - I only didn't because Sheila threatened to hit me <g>. I did finish every last bite, and it was easily the best thing I've eaten so far in my life! For people who've not had the pleasure of this dessert yet, it's small but rich. It's a warm round chocolate cake that's filled with an oozing warm chocolate fudge sauce and then covered with more warm chocolate sauce...when you take a bite it all mooshes together and is so moist & rich & chocolatey.....ahhhhhh, it's wonderful!

Leaving dinner we stopped at the DVC booth & chatted with Gib. He gave us each 2 DVC buttons with "member" blue ribbon attached. He normally works out of the BW, and is enjoying his week on the ship - not a bad perk of the job! Next we came to the pin cart girl, and picked up some more pins for my friend Nina.

We had some time, so we walked 1.5 laps on deck 4 before heading to the show. Sheila was feeling really stuffed after the dessert, but I felt good for a change - really glad I just did that salad! The show tonight was Hercules the Muse-ical. In a word, it was fair. Parts really dragged, some of the scenes with Hades seemed to be just filler - they had nothing to do with the story and seemed out of place. The numerous kids talking, crying, etc were very distracting, as were the many parents going up & down the stairs taking their kids out and back in constantly. I'm just not used to that sort of thing at a show on a cruise ship, and frankly don't care to get used to it. If a kid isn't likely to sit through the show without disturbing people, I don't understand why he/she's not in the kid's club having fun with other kids while mom & dad see the show. Oh well...enough ranting. The best part of the show was when the young Hercules sang Go The Distance - he had a beautiful voice. I'm a sucker for a nice singing voice, and enjoy listening to a man who sings well. That's one thing I especially enjoy at the Comedy Warehouse - the songs they make up, since they all have passable voices, and some have really nice voices.

After escaping the show (Sheila wasn't impressed with it either) we went out on deck briefly and then went to Rockin' Bar D to see Dan Riley's show (song parodies). His show wasn't as funny as the act he did last night, but it was still funny & entertaining. As he says, he takes perfectly good songs and destroys them for profit, lol! He's got a nice voice too, and does some very realistic sound effects. After his show we walked around on deck 9 for a while, until my feet just couldn't stand the high heels any longer. Sheila got some hot chocolate up there - she's got a bit of sunburn on her back and was feeling chilly. She's sitting here now - she's got a stripe on her arms where she rubbed her suntan lotion in but didn't go around the entire arm. She's pale where she rubbed her hand, but on either side she's pink, lol!

At midnight we went up to Lumiere's for the dessert extravaganza. It was much like the chocolate extravaganza on Holland America Line, but smaller and not limited to just chocolate. They had a few statues carved from chocolate, and many desserts - cakes, pies, cheesecake, etc. We tried a few things, but really weren't hungry. I think we mostly ate a bite or two of a few different things. Some people had their plates just piled up with several full size pieces of dessert, and smaller stuff added to the sides! They seated people, and we ended up at a table for 8 with 3 couples. Many people just took their plates back to their cabins, though. Back in our stateroom we turned on cnn to see if Isaac was a hurricane or not, and where he was. I was surprised to find he's 115 miles per hour already, so he's definitely a hurricane. At least he's slow moving and is far away, so I don't expect him to mess up my cruise - later I'll hope he doesn't come to Ft Myers and destroy my home (life in paradise has it's price...the risk of hurricanes). Finally, we planned tomorrow's activities before turning in for the night.

Today was a great day...I am having an absolutely wonderful time on this cruise - better than I ever imagined! We've been busy, and did a lot of running around, hit a few things that were less than wonderful, but overall you just can't beat being on a cruise! The formal evening is a wonderful addition in my opinion, and seeing most of the passengers following the dress code made the night extra special. It's such fun to get all dressed up and have a fancy dinner - stuff I don't do much of at home. There were several people who changed into casual clothes after dinner, and they really did look rather out of place with the other guests. The crew is all in formal clothes also - and the atmosphere is more elegant than other nights. The cutest person was an infant, not more than 2-3 months old who was wearing a tiny tuxedo with a cumberbund and pair of black socks! Lots of ladies had beaded gowns or cocktail dresses. The ones with dresses they'd wear to work or church looked out of place - that is not formal attire. Tomorrow's another day at sea...and dinner in Parrot Cay.

DAY 4 - MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2000:

Plan: Day at sea

Actual: Today was our character breakfast, but we'd decided we weren't going. Neither of us wanted to subject ourselves to all the kids (shudder), nor did we want a big breakfast or need pictures of characters. We were awake at 6 - sunrise was earlier today by about 45 minutes. We watched cnn & some of the shore tv stuff, got cleaned up, had our cappuccino (I also drank a 24 oz bottle of water...which has been pretty normal for me the past 6 weeks since the first BCA thing). We climbed the stairs up to deck 10 and set up our same chairs in the same spot as yesterday. It wasn't quite as windy as yesterday, but still quite breezy. We walked around deck 10 twice and took a few pictures. After we sat around a little while Sheila returned to the stateroom to change out of the very warm black capri pants she was wearing over her swimsuit (not the best choice, lol) and I met her wearing white shorts on Deck 4 for the 9am Walk a Mile. We each carried a bottle of water in each hand to use as weights for the upper body workout. Alina was the instructor again, but the 2 women who led the fast pace yesterday didn't show up. So, I led the way, with 2 people following me and then the rest of the group a fair ways back. It went by quickly, and was a good workout - especially with the water bottles. We did our 4 laps and then Alina made us do some exercises on the deck before letting us go.

Sheila & I headed up to Topsiders for breakfast, now that we'd gotten our metabolism going, so we climbed up to deck 9. We were moving a little slower on the stairs...a little tired from the mile walk, I think! We were ready to eat by now. I got 1/2 bagel and then mixed a container of raspberry yogurt with 1/2 box of granola (minus the raisins). The yogurt/granola was delicious and really hit the spot. This is what I plan to have at Cinderella's Royal Table with a large group of friends in November, and is probably my favorite breakfast food. Sheila had cereal, fruit & some pastry. We ate out on deck, and today didn't have to worry about as much stuff blowing away.

We stopped at our lounge chairs to drop off our water, and then went downstairs to the adult pool and sat in the shallow water on the deck. I really like this pool - there's music playing but otherwise it's nice & quiet. It's strictly for ages 18 & up, so no screaming or splashing kids - they've got the other 2 pools for their fun. Eventually I returned to lay on my chair, and Sheila stayed in the pool a bit longer. Aaahh - this is the life!

We lazed around until it was time for the 11:30 DVC update (for members and prospective members). It was held in Studio Sea and was very well attended, with a good mix of members and non members. Gib talked about how the points work, the concierge collection, other trades, the DVC resorts, the affordability, and flexibility. He asked if any member would be willing to stand up and explain in their words how the program works, so of course I raised my hand (was the only one, so I got chosen) and afterwards he gave me a DVC coolie cup thingy and a luggage tag. I gave Sheila the answer to another question and she won a luggage tag. Towards the end they asked for members willing to share any story about how they use DVC or what it's meant to them, so once again my hand was up & afterwards I got another coolie cup and luggage tag. He showed a really pretty beach towel that says "Member" on it and said the only way to get one is to either join or add on during the cruise (No, Darla - I didn't add on again). He also mentioned that OKW is expected to be sold out by November, and BW in December. The next price increase is January 1, 2001 - and this one is going to be "significant". Gib could not say how much, but evidently it'll be the biggest jump yet. Postcards will be going out to all existing members prior to then. WL Villas points go on sale 1/14/01, so those points will be sold at the higher price. After the update a couple of people came over to talk to me a little further and ask questions, then we climbed back up to deck 10 to lay on our lounge chairs.

It was somewhat overcast today, but the sun was out intermittently. The cloud cover was probably a good thing for Sheila, as it allowed her to stay out longer. About 1:15 we decided to find a little something for lunch. Topsiders didn't look overly wonderful - barbecue stuff mostly. We each grabbed a chocolate chip cookie, Sheila got a piece of cheesecake, and I took a chocolate torte (which was only ok and ended up in the trash). We carried our dessert and I got a plate of fruit from Scoops and she got some pizza from Pinocchio's place and we just shared it all up at a table by our chairs. The cookie was wonderful as always - I could eat those things all day long, but would soon regret it!

We went to the first in the Disney's Navigator Series at 2pm. Once again, people brought their children to this even though it's supposed to be age 13 & older. This time though, they weren't disruptive. Captain John did an introduction and then showed a nice video on the making of the ship. Afterwards, 2 navigational officers were on stage to answer navigational type questions. That soon became boring to me, so Sheila stayed but I decided to go work out. I stopped in the stateroom to change out of my swimsuit & put on gym clothes/shoes, and went to rinse the swimsuit out in the sink near the bathtub. There was a hole in the top of the counter, which looked funny to me, but it didn't quite register what was missing. I turned on the water and it began spraying from underneath the sink...what was missing was the faucet! LOL - I shut it off, and then noticed some parts and tools on the shelf under the sink. I used the sink in the other bathroom, then called guest services to let them know I expected maintenance to come back & either finish their job or reinstall the faucet quickly - so they didn't interfere with getting ready for dinner!

I headed up to the spa (climbing back up to deck 9) to use the fitness center. There were quite a few people in there, but I got a treadmill right away. From the treadmills you look down onto the bridge, which is kind of cool. You also see the crew pool, and overhead each treadmill has a small tv that is individually controlled (headphones are available at the desk). When I was done I stopped at the DVC desk. I was interested in that DVC towel - but wasn't going to add more points to get it. I mentioned to Marti that I'd just added on the day before this vacation (honestly, if I hadn't gotten around to calling my guide that day I would have added on here on the ship) and she said she'd check with Gib to see if they could get me a towel. I'd love to have one, but one thing that REALLY irritates me are people who are alway trying to work an angle to get something for nothing, and I did not want to come across that way at all. I've gotten so many freebies this cruise - picture frame, $100 credit, coolie cups, receptions, etc - and while I appreciate & enjoy every one of them, I expected none of them and needed none of them in order to feel I got a great value for my vacation. Ok, off my soapbox...I haven't whined about smokers lately, but no - I'll stay off that soapbox also & just be happy <g>.

I got back to the stateroom and one of the bathroom doors was closed & I could hear water running. I thought it was the maintenance man, but then saw Sheila's bag on the couch. I went back upstairs to put some money on my account - boy, those pins for my pin trading friends sure add up fast! Got that taken care of, and Sheila was out of the shower. The maintenance man had already come by and fixed the sink & cleaned up the water (but also took our bathmat....you think I could finagle a free cruise since they took my bathmat???? Just kidding!).

I showered and updated the report until it was time to get dressed for the evening. Tonight we're doing the 5:15 reception for Castaway Club (repeat Disney cruisers) members & their guests. More free wine, lol! I'm hungry now too, so that could be interesting to drink on an empty stomach. Tonight's dinner is in Parrot Cay (regular menu) so the dress is casual. Sheila's wearing pretty cream color slacks with a long green & cream colored jacket top with oriental style buttons. I'm wearing a tank style crepe/silk dress that falls almost to the ankles but has a slit up one side - it's brownish, with earthy colored floral stuff in parts. That description sounds horrid - but it's actually a pretty dress, I just did a lousy job describing it.

We got to the reception just before they opened the doors, and met the woman we'd talked to in line at the terminal. We chatted with her, and she asked if she could join us (husband & daughter were napping), so the 3 of us grabbed a table and had a nice time. They had a long table set up with assorted food items, including chicken wontons, mini eggrolls, coconut fried shrimp, spicy shrimp sandwiches, sushi, jalapeno poppers, creme puffs, & other stuff. Servers were circulating with free wine, champagne & soda. It was very nice! The captain spoke briefly, and underscored DCL's appreciation of and commitment to previous guests. We had a glass of wine at the reception, and got another one to take to dinner. We ate very lightly, since dinner was at 6, but the chicken wontons were excellent - I would have been very happy to just eat more of them and call it a meal!

We got to Parrot Cay shortly after 6pm, and Arlene & Alan were already seated. As we walked in we passed head waiter Christopher, who smiled and said ooh la la as I passed, lol! I guess that's how he'll remember me - as the one who said ooh la la that first night. This is a pretty dining room - very festive. Jelidi was driving someone's electric scooter thru the dining room to put it away, making screeching noises (by mouth) and having a lot of fun! The food for me wasn't as great as the last 2 nights, but the company made up for that. Arlene & Alan are wonderful dining companions, and we are having great fun & lots of laughs with them - dinner is a highlight of an already great day!! We were telling them about our situation with the sink, and I heard Sheila's version for the first time - and they were hysterical laughing, saying it sounded like a Laurel & Hardy movie. Maybe it's sort of a "you had to be there" type thing, but I'll recap the whole story just in case anyone enjoys it. I'll try to limit the repetitive parts (especially since I did have 2 glasses of wine - a lot for me).

Ok, I come back to the cabin, go to wash out my swimsuit in the sink. I see a hole in the counter but don't really realize what should have been in the place of that hole. I put the plug into the drain and turn on the water - water shoots out from under the sink at my legs and onto the floor, and then I realize what's missing is the faucet!! I turn off the water & call maintenance telling them they need to finish their job asap - before we get ready for dinner. I leave the cabin. Sheila comes into the cabin, notices the light on in the bathroom but thinks nothing of it - figuring I was there. As she passes the bathroom, she sees a maintenance man (not me) in there sitting on the trash can. She went to the sofa and the man tells her "all back together again now, good bye". She has no idea what he was doing, but evidently he thought she was the one who called. She gets into the shower. I come back into the cabin; Sheila hears the door open & close. I see the bathroom door closed but the light on underneath and figure the maintenance guy must be working on the sink. I thought about going in to see what he was doing, but then noticed it sounded like the shower was running. I thought that was strange, but then noticed Sheila's bag on the sofa and figured it must be her. I opened the safe to get my wallet and left the cabin. Sheila had just finished her shower and heard the door open & close again and when she came out of the bathroom the cabin was empty but the closet door and safe door were wide open. She was alarmed!!! She checked the safe and saw the jewelry was all there, along with her wallet, but my wallet was missing...oh no! She started checking the rest of the cabin, but then noticed my bag (which was on my bed) had been moved, so she hoped the door opening/closing was me coming & going. I came back shortly and was able to confirm that. So, despite being in a high bottled water theft district, our jewelry and other valuables were safe. End of story.

Ok, back to dinner. For an appetizer I had a fresh fruit cup, which was very good. Sheila & Arlene had the coconut fried shrimp - one of the DCL favorites. Alan had the pot stickers, which he said were excellent. After the wine, I was not hungry in the least, and I'm not a fish eater at all, but I was interested in something as light as possible. There wasn't a garden salad on the menu, and didn't want to ask for one to be brought from another restaurant. I ordered the pan fried grouper - figuring I could at least choke down a bite or 2, but Jelidi said it was a very light tasting fish and if I didn't like it to just say so & he'd find something else. Actually, it wasn't bad. I'm sure fish lovers would rave about it - if I say a fish is not bad, that probably means it's excellent, lol! I didn't eat much of it, though...not even half. The best part was the mashed yucca it was served on. That sounds gross, and I'm not really adventurous, but this was delicious! I even tried a tiny bite of the papaya, but didn't care for that at all - tasted too much like a vegetable. Arlene & Alan also got the grouper, and declared it wonderful. Sheila got the strip loin (hey Kathy - loins for dinner, hehehe) and enjoyed that. Dessert was somewhat disappointing - no chocolate items. Jelidi noticed that right off the bat and apologized for it up front, lol! Alan got the bananas flambé, which was flamed in another part of the dining room. It looked tasty, especially the scoop of ice cream. The other 3 of us got the kahlua trifle. Arlene liked it, but Sheila & I left most of ours uneaten. I personally do not like the taste of alcohol in my food, but the last 2 nights I'd purposely not ordered items for that reason, only to try a taste of the item and find that it didn't taste like alcohol....it tasted great. Tonight the kahlua trifle tasted like alcohol, lol! It figures. I'd never really had trifle before, and now realize I've not been missing anything.

We noticed that Alan was wearing a tropical shirt tonight and the man at the next table was wearing the exact same shirt - which caused us to have a lot of fun with that! It was truly a fun dinner, even if the food wasn't the greatest. We'll miss them the next 2 nights - tomorrow they're eating at Palo and then we are the following night. Jelidi did a magic trick for us since Arlene & Alan wouldn't be there tomorrow night - he made a handkerchief disappear & reappear - pretty cool. He says he'll be walking on his hands tomorrow night as part of the "show" in the dining room (gymnastics background), so that should be interesting - he said to be sure to bring our cameras.

We said goodnight to Arlene & Alan and I returned to the stateroom to update the report. Sheila came back shortly and around 8 we went for a walk on deck 4 and then got seats for the show. Tonight is the new show - C'est Magique. The show was a real departure from the other 3 shows. It was nice to have a break from the Disney characters and the same old songs from the movies. However, this show needs work. Some of the illusions were very good - but the stuff in between was kind of weak, and it didn't seem to flow together well. At the beginning they played unusual music - kind of like at Cirque du Soleil, but nowhere near on that scale, plus no acrobatics. The lead actor/magician wasn't very engaging, not like a Lance Burton or other performer. There was a clown guy in the show that the little kids really liked, but clowns are probably my least favorite form of entertainment. Overall I was glad I saw the show, and would probably see it again if enough time had passed that I'd thought they'd made some changes, but I wouldn't bother if I was cruising again soon.

After the show we climbed up to deck 9 and walked around once or twice. Neither of us felt like doing much of anything - getting tired I suppose. We decided to order chocolate chip cookies from room service even though we weren't hungry at all, so we returned to the stateroom. Upon entering, I saw there was a gift on my bed...in a DVC bag! Woohoo - it was a box and it had a handwritten note from Gib & Marti saying I'd been great at the group presentation today, and thanking me. The note also said "enjoy the towel"!!! Yay - they gave me a towel :-) Sheila laughed and commented that I'm making out like a bandit on this cruise, with all the gifts & stuff, but she was happy for me. She held the towel up so I could take a digital picture for the photopoint site - DVC members can get one by adding on during their cruise...at least as long as the towels last I guess.

I called room service to order the cookies - they said they'd be there in 40 minutes but it was more like 15 at the most. The cookies were not the big ones we had last month - they were the same regular sized ones found up at Topsiders. Oh well, they're not bad. Sheila had gotten some milk up on deck 9, and I made a 1/2 cup of (caffein free) cappuccino. We discussed our plans for tomorrow, our day in St Maarten. Originally I'd been interested in heading to one of the European style (translate: clothing optional) beaches, but I don't think Sheila can handle any real beach time with her sunburned back, and I can be just as happy laying by the pool on the ship. Besides, we'll be at a beach briefly the next day, and all day Friday. I'll just tell myself there really wouldn't have been any naked attractive men there tomorrow anyway, so I'm not missing anything <g>. Darla - this means you won't be getting any pictures, sorry.

I finished up the report & we watched a little tv before turning in for the night. It was another wonderful day on board the ship. I'm so glad this isn't a 3-night cruise, or we'd be getting off in the morning! It's nice knowing we're not quite 1/2 way finished yet :-)

DAY 5 - TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2000:

Plan: St Maarten, Island Night Dinner

Actual: We were awake by 6 again. I sat up and looked out the window - and saw mountains! We were already in St. Maarten, even though we hadn't heard the anchor drop or anything. Sheila was laying in her bed, which faces the window, but she hadn't looked up to see that we were there. The sun was up, and the island looked pretty. Actually, to someone who lives in Florida anything with a hill looks pretty, lol! We got cleaned up, I had some cappuccino, and then we sat by the window and watched the tenders and other boats moving around the harbor. A RCCL ship arrived (Monarch of the Seas) came and anchored across from and behind us, then the Norway came in and anchored on our other side. I'd sailed the Norway back in 1983 when it was the largest cruise ship in service anywhere, but the Magic is bigger. Of the 3 ships, the Magic was the prettiest & most impressive by far. On shore we met a couple who were on the Norway, and they were disappointed with it this time (they had sailed her previously). The tender running back in forth from our ship was La Nina - perhaps after my DVC friend Nina??? Maybe she'll retire here and have her husband operate "her" tender, lol.

We climbed up 8 decks to the spa for the 7:30 Step Class. Neither of us had ever taken a step class before, but we were willing to try. Only 2 other women were in the class, which was led by Alina. It was 45 minutes long, and although it was a good workout, the most difficult part for both of us was simply being coordinated enough to get the movements down and remember what step to take. Sheila claims she's not coordinated, and I know for sure that I'm not! We made it through the class though, and went down to deck 4 to wait 10 minutes for the Walk a Mile to start.

Alina was the instructor here again, and only 1 other person showed up. Alina suggested we walk on deck 10, and led us to the elevators. When I told her that Sheila & I would take the stairs and meet them up on deck, they decided to use the stairs also! It was sunny & warm up there, so we kept a slower pace than the previous 2 days. The other woman and I walked together, with Sheila and Alina following. The 4 laps went by quickly because we were all talking to pass the time.

After the walk Sheila wasn't ready to face any more stairs right away, so I went down to the stateroom to get our cameras and climbed back up to meet her on deck 9. Allan had already serviced the stateroom, and had put our champagne on ice and left the 2 extra champagne glasses I'd requested in a note to him (we'll use the original set to take a glass of champagne to dinner, and use the 2nd set later at the deck party). When I got back up to deck 9 Sheila was flirting shamelessly with a cute young cm named Andrew from Canada (Nina, you would have been proud of her).

We went into Topsiders and got breakfast to eat out on deck. I got a bunch of fruit and my raspberry yogurt with granola. Sheila got some eggs, fruit & cereal. I also took a banana from the omelet station and put some chocolate syrup on a plate, and we shared that - sort of a makeshift fondue. It tasted good, but I don't think we'll eat quite that much again... we were left feeling kind of too full. We walked around on deck 10 taking a few pictures of St Maarten, then went to the stateroom so I could change from the workout clothes to go ashore.

On the way to the tender we ran into Marti (DVC) in the hall and she asked if I'd gotten my towel. I thanked her (was going to stop by the DVC booth tonight to do so) and said I loved it & had even taken a picture to show other DVC members on the internet. We chatted a while, then continued on our way. We had to wait briefly for a tender, and watched the people who had to go back to their staterooms because they didn't bring the resort id's for all members of their party. To get on or off the ship (except the day we arrive back in Port Canaveral) every single person must have their card with them...this is standard on all cruise ships I know of these days. It was difficult for some of the elderly and the obese people to get on the tender - it's a free floating boat bobbing around in the waves. 2-3 crew grasped each of those people firmly to help them into the tender.

St. Maarten is a very hilly island, and you can see some narrow steep roads that switchback up the mountains. There is a large shopping district right by the pier, along with a good size beach. I think the better beaches are elsewhere, though - accessible by taxi or rental car. Some are clothing optional, some are not. The shopping area wasn't impressive at all - just your typical island environment - lots of jewelry stores, electronics, and tee shirts. Some of the locals were a little pushy trying to get you into their shops, but most of the taxi drivers would wish you a nice day and then leave you alone when you declined their services. I really prefer to be left alone - if I want to go in somewhere I will, and if I have a question or want to buy something I'll find someone to help me. Following me around is a sure way to get me to leave the shop, or not go in at all. The people here were nowhere near as pushy (& obnoxious) as what I've experienced in Jamaica, or even Cozumel. They're not as laid back as the people in Grand Cayman, though.

We looked in a few of the shops, but soon they all looked alike. We walked up and down Front Street, which is narrow & pretty crowded with 3 cruise ships in port. I got a couple of postcards and a refrigerator magnet, but that's it. We stopped at the guavaberry liqueur shop - the guavaberry (no relation to the guava) is unique to St Maarten, and they let us sample it in a guavaberry colada that was yummy! They also gave us a sample of just the liqueur straight, which was awful...very strong alcohol taste. I thought about buying a bottle, but really I rarely drink at home and knew it would just sit under the bar with the rest of the alcohol, so I didn't go back to buy it. We stopped at the belgian chocolate shop for a sample - it was good, but the last thing we need on the cruise is any chocolate! With spending the last day at WDW, there'd be no way to keep the chocolate from melting, and I don't need to be eating it on the ship with all the food already here!

All together we spent about 2 hours on shore, then were more than ready to return to the ship. At the tender pier Disney had a tent set up to provide shade and they had free ice water & fruit punch available for their guests. I'm pretty sure Holland America did the same thing on my last cruise - except their drink is lemonade rather than fruit punch. Back in the stateroom I changed into my swimsuit and climbed up to deck 10 to lay on a lounge chair in the sun. It was great - I had St. Maarten on both sides, plus the Norway to watch. I decided to go down a deck to the adult pool, and didn't realize how HOT the deck was today! Ouch - it was awful, but by the time I realized it, it would have hurt just as much to go back to get my sandals. Yikes! There was only 1 person in the pool, and he happened to be from NJ so we talked to each other for a while.

I got out and showered off, trying to get my feet as cool as possible for the treacherous walk back to my chair (thought about getting more towels and doing like Dudley Moore in the movie "10", but didn't want to embarrass myself). From the shower I saw a man & woman sitting on some chairs and he was pointing or waving at me....and he looked familiar, but I could't place him. He kept smiling when I got out, so I went over & realized it was Gib (DVC guide)! The woman talking to him is another DVC member, Angela from Key West (the real Key West) who recognized me from an earlier fitness thing but didn't realize I was a DVC member then. We sat around talking for quite a while, and I thanked Gib for the towel. He mentioned that yesterday a couple who'd been at the update when I gave my little speech on what DVC is & how it works said some really nice things about my explanation and said DVC should have me working for them selling memberships (they ended up adding on points), and Gib liked it too. I'm no salesperson, but if I ever had to do sales for a living, DVC is probably the only thing I could sell. Well, maybe tickets to the Comedy Warehouse, too <g>.

Angela had done the 12 metre sailing regatta, which is a race thing. She said that 8 of the 14 people on her boat were DVC members, so one of them bought the outrageously priced picture the tour took and was getting the names of the other DVC members so they could enter it in the member's photo contest - cool idea. August DVC cruisers - we should enter our big group picture outside of Triton's! Gib & Angela headed to the bridge for a tour, and I went back into the shower to get my feet wet before returning to my chair. There was only 1 other person up on deck 10, and maybe 6 down on deck 9. It's wonderful feeling like I've got the ship to myself! A big storm was coming across a nearby island, and I watched it come closer until I could barely see land over there anymore. Next it came to the Norway, and the ship was almost not visible for a while, and that was my cue to get up and go down to deck 9 under cover! The storm ended up skirting around us, so we only got very light rain for a few minutes. The clouds built up though, and it stayed cloudy pretty much the rest of the afternoon.

Sheila had finished her tour of the bridge and found me sitting at a table on deck 9. We decided to scavenge for lunch again today. We started in Topsiders and got chocolate chip cookies and a few pieces of cheese. Next stop was scoops for watermelon & grapes. At Pinocchio's she got Hawaiian pizza and I got a caesar salad (pretty good - heavy on the dressing, a fairly small portion rather than a huge salad). We brought all that to the table and she went to Signals to get us a pina colada to share in our ESPN mugs. The pina colada was delicious, but I think the mudslide was better.

After lunch I returned to the pool for a little while and Sheila napped at the table. It got chilly at the pool though, so I wrapped in towels and dried off. About 3:30 I returned to the stateroom to download the digital pictures, update the report, and shower for dinner. Funny, I'm not really missing my online time. It feels like there's not enough time in the day as it is; I could never keep up with the online stuff here like I usually do at WDW & other land vacation spots. Sheila came back for her shower, and we opened the bottle of champagne before going to dinner. Actually, Sheila opened the champagne - I didn't have a clue how you open that. It tastes pretty good - it's Korbel Brut, very fizzy. A bottle goes a long way...we filled the 2 glasses and it didn't make a very big dent in the bottle so we've got a lot of drinking to do!

Tonight is TROPICALifragilisticexpialidocious dinner in all restaurants (except Palo's) - the menu has a tropical theme and guests are asked to wear tropical clothing. I've got a very bright tropical jacket that someone made for me (orange, black - parrots, flowers, palms, etc), which I'm wearing over the black dress I wore formal night. The jacket is the main article people will see - the dress will be buried beneath it with just a few inches showing at most. Sheila is wearing a yellow pant suit with bright embroidered flowers toward the bottom of 1 leg and a smaller one on the chest. We should see a lot of those wild hawaiian style shirts tonight!

Dinner, in a word - was excellent! Arlene & Alan were eating in Palo's tonight, so we missed them. Upon entering Lumiere's Jelidi saw us and gave us each one of his arms to lead us to the table. He seated us, and placed a brightly colored floral lei on each of us. We both had the fresh fruit pineapple boat for our appetizer, and it was great! It was a pineapple spear with some sort of light sauce. Next to it was a piece of banana coated in pink coconut - it was all wonderful. For main course Sheila had the sweet & sour chicken with shrimp fried rice and broccoli. This was real chicken, not that heavily breaded stuff - the chicken was not breaded at all, and she loved it. I didn't want a full main course, so I asked Jelidi for an appetizer caesar salad with some chicken breast cut up on top, and that was perfect again. The choices were garlic shrimp, beef tenderloin teriyaki, pumpkin seed crusted tuna, and some porkloin item.

The servers had a show to do, but due to technical difficulties it was delayed. Jelidi had told us to bring our cameras and he'd be walking on his hands. Well, the show started with him doing cartwheels in the aisle and then walking on his hands as the others paraded & danced out of the kitchen. It was very festive - there was a limbo part, clown hair, all kinds of crazy carnival-type stuff. For dessert they had a triple chocolate cake with chocolate sauce, but neither of us was in the mood for chocolate (hard to believe). We both ordered the white chocolate cheesecake with macadamia crust - and this is so wonderful it's second only to the warm chocolate lava cake! We stuffed down every bite...it was too good to leave! After dinner Jelidi said goodbye and kissed out hands, lol - service here is so much better and more fun than it was on the Wonder!

We walked up the stairs to the DVC desk hoping to get a picture of Marti & Gib for the photopoint site. A woman was sitting in a chair at the top of the stairs and asked if I was Sue. I figured maybe Marti had talked about me or something, but it was someone who recognized me from the internet (christiansmom), and I recognized her screen name also. She & her husband had recently become DVC members just prior to the cruise - and it was nice chatting with them for a little while. Gib was off with a prospective member, so we'll check back later for a picture. We talked to Marti for quite a while - she's a riot! We talked about non Disney stuff...mostly men, lol. We had a lot of fun, but I won't be going into any details <g>.

We walked around on deck 4 for a while. The Norway was a tiny speck on the horizon, and the Monarch of the Seas had just left - we could see that one pulling away. St Maarten doesn't look like much at night - there aren't enough buildings to generate enough lights to really make it spectacular, so I didn't take any pictures. We stopped at the stateroom to update the report and rest our feet before going upstairs for the 8:30 showing of the movie The Crew. There weren't very many people in the theater, and very few kids (it was rated pg-13 and had a scene about oral sex, some brief nudity, some violence). Overall, it wasn't nearly as funny as we'd hoped. It had a few good moments, but the rest was either dragging or just plain stupid. The projector broke down for about 20 minutes or so before they could get it fixed & restart the movie - but it didn't restart where it had left off! LOL - maybe that contributed to the less than wonderful review! We were both glad we hadn't paid to see the movie, though.

After the movie we climbed up to deck 10 for the tropical deck party. Lots of people were there, and they had a loud dance band at the family pool and a quieter group trying to be heard at the adult pool (it was tough because you mostly heard the family pool band). The party was just like any other deck party - they're not my thing, so I generally don't bother with them, but many people have a lot of fun at them. They had the dance floor over the family pool, and brought out the Magic dancers. Just as we set sail at 11pm they brought out all the characters onto the stage, and they danced too. We stayed by the railing and watched St Maarten slip back into the distance as the ship eased out of the harbor.

I left Sheila up there on deck and returned to the stateroom. On the way I saw many people eating again - piling up at the outdoor buffet that was part of the deck party. Ugh - neither of us wanted to even think about food! I said hi to a couple of people as I walked through, and then went to the stateroom. It's great to feel the ship moving (slight movement, but it tells me I'm cruising rather than being parked somewhere). I poured 1/2 glass of champagne and finished up the report before crawling into bed to read tomorrow's Personal Navigator. We've got to meet for our excursion tomorrow at 8:15am, and had talked about just pre-ordering room service for breakfast. They don't have yogurt on there, so I wrote it in...we'll see what happens.

This day marks the halfway point on the cruise - in a sense it feels like we've always been here, but we fear the next 3 days are going to fly by. I've got to book another one...as Rich says - Book Now, Book Often! I guess that can be the DVC motto!

DAY 6 - WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2000:

Plan: St Thomas, dinner at Palo's

Actual: I woke up at 6:15, looked towards the window and saw the mountains of St. Thomas passing slowly by. I'd forgotten how hilly this island is. Sheila was already awake and from her bed she watched the sun come up. There are lots of sailboats anchored out in the harbor, and soon we were docked at our pier. Room service called to say they were out of raspberry yogurt, and asked if they could bring blueberry instead - which was fine by me (anything except peach). It arrived shortly - cereal, my yogurt, and a bagel we intended to share. We sat by the window and enjoyed our breakfast. We had the tv on - with the satellite you sometimes lose channels and then pick up other strange ones. Yesterday Sheila caught some of the British bbc stuff - today we found Winnie the Pooh speaking Spanish (smart bear to be bi-lingual). Eventually ABC was picked up, so it was fun seeing all the New York commercials.

Our tour meets at 8:15 in Rockin' Bar D. We'll be taken by ferry boat to Water Island, not far from St. Thomas and then be given mountain bikes and led on a tour of that island before stopping briefly at some beach. We went up on deck 4 to look around, and saw gloomy skies on all sides. Clouds aren't a big deal - in fact, they'll keep us cooler. We ran into Alan - he & Arlene had eaten at Palo's last night so we asked him how it was. They enjoyed the food very much, but noted the servers were pretty hard sell on the expensive glasses of wine & other extras. We'll see how our experience is tonight. For me, I don't need to get any fuller by adding wine to an already big meal.

There were 19 of us going on the tour, and 2 joined us at the last minute. There is a minimum age - I think 10 or 12, and we only had 1 kid with us (a 12 year old boy who was big physically but rather immature and didn't shut up). First we had a fairly long ride in a small boat over to Water Island - and along the way it started to rain. The rain ended up not stopping until after we were done with the bike ride, and even then it was just a temporary rain free period.

On the island we were taken by open jeep/truck thing up to the top where the tour starts. We received instruction on how to use the bikes, were fitted with helmets and given mountain bikes with full bottles of water, and heard some of the history of the island before setting out. Water Island is inhabited by 125 people, and during the "season" that population about doubles. There are no commercial facilities. The lady who owns the company was very informative about St Thomas & the surrounding area all the while we were on the ferry and truck.

So, we're on top of this mountain in the rain, wearing bike helmets. That may not sound like a problem, but although I can be pretty tough about many things, in reality I am actually a prissy little thing. Wearing a bike helmet was a big trauma, and you'll never find me in the rain without an umbrella (had one in my backpack, as a matter of fact). But, I had to suck it up and not be such a priss on the tour, even if it killed me <g>. You won't find any pictures of either one of us taken before we shower & do our hair later though...eek!

We started off - I was near the front and Sheila hung back ...everyone went at their own pace. I'd never mountain biked before, and was shocked to see we were going straight down steep hills (argh - Florida is nice & flat...very safe...this was treacherous). Not only were they steep hills, they weren't even paved!!! We were careening down dirt paths, over grass, over rocks....bumping along at breakneck speed on those foolish bikes. I mastered the art of pumping my brakes in the first 50 yards of the tour, lol! There were big mud puddles that at times were unavoidable, so everyone was splattered with mud all over their legs, and the front & back of their clothing. I did better than most (the prissy factor, I'm sure) with only minimal mud on me. Some people were covered because they either didn't think or weren't able to avoid some of the puddles. If you take this tour, do NOT wear white clothes, lol!

Ok, so the downhill part was fast & a little scary, but soon we came to uphill parts....oh my aching legs! Nothing like trying to pedal a bike up the side of a mountain on a rocky dirt path in the steady rain. We made several stops to allow the slower riders to catch up, and then the guide would give us some information about where we were. The island was hit hard by hurricane Marilyn in 1990, and some of the places we stopped were places that were destroyed then and not rebuilt. We also rode through a short tunnel in the mountain, which is where the islanders go to if they want to evacuate their houses. Pretty scary!

We had 1 man who had to stop and ride in the truck for a little while - the biking was too much for him, and one girl actually got sick and spent all but the very beginning of the tour in the truck. The ferry ride over had been pretty rough (big waves) and then I think the bumpiness of the bike ride just did her in. Oh yes, the bike seats were soaking wet from the rain, so we all had lovely matching wet spots on our shorts - the entire area that touched the seats. Between that & the mud, we were not a very attractive tour group, lol - but everyone was having fun.

We ended at a beach, which would have been nicer if it wasn't raining. A few people went swimming anyway, and I stood under the pavilion talking to some other passengers and a Disney crew member who took the tour. From there we were driven back to the dock to take the ferry back to St Thomas. In total we were gone about 4 hours. Had it been sunny today, the tour would have been much more difficult. There was only 1 spot where I had to get off the bike & walk it up, and that was a section where you're on a bumpy dirt/grass path that went straight up...I almost made it, but couldn't get enough speed on the rough surface. I don't think anyone other than the guides were able to ride that section...they all walked at least once. On the way back on the ferry the guide told us the native specialty drink (found only on St Thomas) was the Bushwacker - but don't have more than a couple! They sounded great, so I asked were we would find them. Getting off the ferry I noticed that most passengers didn't tip the guides...I think only 4 of us did (3 single people and a family of 3). I thought that was rather strange, but perhaps they just didn't know that it's customary.

Back on land we walked around, and decided to ride the tram up the mountain to Paradise Point ($12/adult, $6/kid). This is an aerial tramway, and the view would have been much nicer had it not been cloudy and raining again. Once up there it started to rain very hard. We looked through their shops and then went to the bar to order Bushwackers ($5.50 each plus tip). I saw the recipe - it's 6oz Bailey's Irish Cream, 2 oz vodka, 4 oz Kahlua, 2 oz coconut rum, 4 oz amaretto, and it's blended together with some ice, then topped with whipped cream and nutmeg. It's very tasty - sort of a variation on a mudslide without chocolate, but with all that alcohol you don't want to drink too many too fast (they go down reaaaaalllll easy). We sat at a table on the edge of the cliff (under a big umbrella) and watched the fog roll in across the top of the mountains. The Magic was just below us, and looked great! After our drinks were finished we rode the tram back down. On both tram rides we shared it with a couple from 1 of the 2 other ships in port and it was fun to compare notes with both couples on cruise lines & stuff.

On the ground we wandered around the Havensight Mall area - several buildings of shops. Many of the shops in the downtown area are also at Havensight, and we were able to poke around without having to hire a taxi to get into town. We really weren't looking for anything or planning to buy much of anything, so we just browsed around close to the ship. It's great that none of the locals were pushy at all, or tried to get you into their shops. They were there if you needed something, but otherwise they left you alone.

We got back on the ship, and were walking down the hall to our stateroom when we heard a distant voice yell "Hi Sue". It was Marti from DVC...Sheila said it was pretty bad when people are recognizing me from behind, lol! Marti had stayed on the ship, but said she'd had fun. It's almost time to open the DVC booth, so she's probably getting ready for work. I can't imagine working on a cruise, but if it gets you on there for free I guess it's a pretty good thing!

We decided to order some tomato soup from room service since our only lunch was the bushwacker. They said it would be 40 minutes, and this time they weren't kidding! Usually they say 30-45 minutes and they're there in 15, but I imagine a lot of the crew are off, and a lot of passengers are coming back from tours & might have missed lunch. The soup was wonderful, and besides coming with croutons they had some really good rye type crackers.

We decided to go for a walk, and ran into Gib & Marti by the stairs so stopped to talk with them. I hadn't realized that DVC members aren't limited to 2000 points - the limit is 2000 points at a single resort, but 5000 in total per person. A married couple could have 10,000 points (and over $40k in annual dues) if they split the points into just one person's name. He did say nobody's got 5000 points, and they don't expect to ever see anyone with that many. I'd love to be the first, but can't afford $20,000 in annual dues each year!

We walked around deck 4 for a while, and then I ran down to the stateroom to shower so I'd have time to come back up and watch us leave port. Sheila stayed up on deck watching the last people return to the ship - at 4:30 (the time everyone was due back) one passenger was missing - but eventually his family was able to find him & bring him back onto the ship. After my shower I threw some clothes on and went up on deck with Sheila just as we were pulling away from the dock. As we passed the Royal Carribbean ship those passengers were all waving at us, and our passengers were waving back. Then the captains of the 2 ships were blowing their horns at each other - it was pretty funny. They were just playing with each other. When our ship did the "when you wish upon a star" thing with the horn, the people on the other ship cheered & clapped for us - they loved it! As we passed the Norway we played the horn for them also. St Thomas is a very pretty island, and sailing away was very picturesque. The mountainous smaller islands everywhere around us look really nice. It was actually cool on deck - the air is definitely cooler than previous days. At one point on St Thomas I was actually cold - and I think Sheila was also.

While on deck 4 I noticed they'd set up some lounge chairs along the deck, like on other cruise ships. That was one thing I criticized last month - I'd never heard of a promenade deck where people couldn't stretch out on a lounge chair and read a book, nap, or people watch. It's still the tacky white plastic chairs like up on the pool deck, but maybe someday they'll replace them with nice wooden lounge chairs with comfortable thick cushions (like Holland America). We returned to the stateroom to finish getting cleaned up and dressed for our dinner at Palo's tonight at 6:30. I poured myself a 1/2 glass of champagne while Sheila showered - it's still fizzy despite having been opened yesterday. We've keep it on ice, and just set the cork resting on the top of the bottle (not able to reinsert the cork) and it kept surprisingly well.

For Palo's tonight I wore another basic black dress. It's lace with long sleeves and scooped neck & back, and below the bust it's just a plain spandex-type (figure hugging but not gross) material, ending a few inches above the knee. Sheila wore a pantsuit with black slacks, black/white striped vest with chain connecting the double-breasted buttons, and a khacki colored long jacket. We'll most likely change clothes after dinner (at least I will) since it's not a formal night and our "rotation" was casual tonight. This will be the first time we've not stayed in our dinner clothes the entire evening...despite the rest of the passengers showing up in shorts & tee shirts right after dinner (even on formal night - very tacky).

We poured the rest of the champagne into our glasses and climbed up to deck 9 to sit and people watch before dinner. Due to the clouds there wasn't much of a sunset - in fact the sun would have gone down behind a mountain anyway, but the sky turned a pretty pink. We spent about 1/2 hour sitting there before it was time to head to Palo's. On the way we ran into Marti & Gib eating dinner on deck, and Gib raved about Palo's being his favorite restaurant. He told us to be sure to get the chocolate souffle, but of course that's the reason we'd made the reservation in the first place!

At Palo's we were greated at the door and asked to take a seat on the couch. Soon we were taken to our table, and the restaurant manager welcomed us and introduced our server. He was very attentive - friendly yet there was no mistaking that we were the guests and he told us anything at all that we wanted to just let him know because he wanted us to leave here impressed. We had a choice of mineral water or regular water - we chose regular, which they serve with lemon slices. The assistant server brought out the bread basket and explained each type, along with the 3 sauces/spreads. There was a mayonnaise & garlic, red peppers, and crushed black olives. The mayo & garlic sounded absolutely disgusting to me, but was the lesser of 3 evils so I hesitantly tried it, and it was wonderful!! I loved it, lol! I still think it sounds disgusting, but it sure does taste good <g>. Our server also brought us some antipasta - which neither of us would touch. It had green beans, mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, & something we couldn't identify & didn't remember what he'd told us. I ordered a glass of Beringer white zinfandel, which at $4.25 I felt wasn't overpriced at all.

They have specialty pizzas on the menu, but neither of us bothered with them. We both ordered the fresh mozzarella and tomato salad for our appetizers, and it was delicious. For entrees Sheila got the catch of the day - salmon. It was a very large, very thick filet atop risotto, with asparagus & tomatoes on the side. She likes salmon, and LOVED this dish - but it was a little more than she could finish. I ordered the special of the day - a chicken breast on a bed of spinach with a small portion of angel hair pasta. It was beautifully presented - the pasta was wound into a ball, and some sauce was decoratively placed on either side of the chicken. The chicken was moist & tender, I wouldn't go near the spinach with a ten foot pole, and the pasta was delicious. It was a great selection for me!

At the beginning of the meal our server had taken away our dessert menus, saying not to even look at them because he knew what he was going to bring us...just trust him. Luckily (for him, lol) it was the chocolate hazelnut souffle with warm vanilla bean sauce.....absolutely to die for!!! He brought us each one, and also brought the carmelized custard to share. I generally don't like custard at all, but this was delicious, and looked beautiful on the plate with some fresh fruit around the sides. The real highlight was that souffle though, and this dessert is worth a trip to Palo's even if that's all you plan to eat! I noticed just about everyone in the restaurant ordered it - which is no surprise!

At Palo's there is a $5/person charge and we added a little more since the service was so good. It was a great meal! We were stuffed when we left though, rather uncomfortably so. We stopped in the stateroom and I changed into a casual dress and comfortable shoes, and we headed up to walk some laps on deck 4. We did a mile there quickly, then climbed up to deck 10 and I did another mile. Sheila sat out for a couple of laps, reading tomorrow's Personal Navigator. We then walked some laps on deck 9, and ran into the NJ guy from the pool yesterday so stopped to talk to him. He complained that they were disappointed in the food on the ship - that the food on the Wonder last October was much better. Fortunately, my experience has been the opposite - the Wonder was very good, but the food this cruise is definitely better. He didn't like the 2 ports either, noting that the living conditions of the residents was poor - which is true, but that's true of just about every island.

We stopped at the front desk to charge our tips so we didn't have to wait in line to do it on Friday, and also pay our accounts. We looked in the shops again, and I got a couple of things for myself. It was almost time for the 9:45 Cabaret show starring Russ Merlin, so we headed to Rockin' Bar D and got seats in the no-smoking section. This was a pretty good show. He's a magician/comedian but doesn't talk at all. Instead, he does mime, which I can't stand...but at least his funny stuff made up for it. The first half of the show he had some poor guy from the audience up on stage, and played some tricks with him. Later he pulled Sheila up there, and she got a silk rose for participating. After the show we walked a couple more laps around deck 4, checked the map to see where hurricane Isaac and tropical storm Joyce were in relation to us (far away) and returned to the stateroom. I made 1/2 cup of cappuccino to drink while finishing up the report. Sheila did some reading since there was nothing on tv, and we were in our beds before midnight.

Hopefully we'll leave this cloudy rainy whether behind us and have a nice day tomorrow. I plan to do just about nothing all day long, other than lay on a lounge chair or sit in the adult pool (after the walk a mile thing of course). Sheila found a few things on the Navigator that she may try out, since she doesn't want to risk any further sunburn before Castaway Cay on Friday. This is the beauty of cruising - there's something for everyone, and you can do as much or as little as you want from one day to the next!

DAY 7 - THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2000:

Plan: Day at sea, Master Chefs Dinner (formal)

Actual: Today I didn't get up until after 7. Sheila said she saw part of the sunrise - lifting her head off her pillow to look out the window, but then deciding sleep was more important...guess we're both getting a little tired. Vacationing is such hard work, lol! We got cleaned up and watched the DCL channel on the tv for a while. We climbed the stairs to deck 10 to set up our lounge chairs, and then did a couple of laps. It looked like it would be a beautiful day - sunny with some puffy clouds, and that's exactly how it turned out. In retrospect, if we

had

to have a rainy day, I do prefer it be a port day rather than a sea day, so it worked out well. At 9am we went down to deck 4 to meet for the Walk A Mile. This morning there were 5 of us, plus fitness instructor Jenny. She didn't keep as fast a pace as Alina had, but it was an enjoyable walk.

After walking we climbed up to deck 9 for breakfast at Topsider's. I decided to skip my yogurt/granola today, and instead had fruit with 1/2 english muffin & 1/2 bagel. Sheila opted for a traditional breakfast for a change - eggs, bacon, etc. We ate out on deck in the shade, and enjoyed the gorgeous view. We got to our lounge chairs around 10am, and spent a couple of hours or so either in the adult pool or laying on our chairs. The ocean was very calm, and a gorgeous deep blue color. The announcement said we were in water that was 16,000 feet deep - wow! We could see another cruise ship off in the distance, and I looked like the Royal Caribbean ship that was in St Thomas with us.

A little after noon we went for a walk - did a few laps around decks 9 & 10, and saw they had king crab legs at Topsider's. We weren't planning on eating, but Sheila decided to get some of the crab so I went in with her. Jelidi was working, and he greeted us warmly and asked about our night at Palo's. He wanted to know who our server was, was service good, etc. He's so friendly - it's been great having him as our waiter. Sheila got her crab legs and some other stuff, and I took a spoon of salad & was looking at the steak sandwiches when someone came up and put their arms around me - it was head waiter Christopher coming to say hi to us. I took a small steak sandwich, and we went outside to sit in the shade. Outside we saw Willy, our assistant server - it was great seeing all 3 of them. Sheila enjoyed her lunch, but mine mostly got tossed out. The salad was too heavy on the caesar dressing, the steak sandwich was tough, and the coleslaw was good but not outstanding, so I just ate a chocolate chip cookie (those are always great). After lunch we walked the deck again, and decided to get ice cream at Scoops. We both got a small bowl of chocolate/vanilla swirled ice cream with peanut m&m's - and it was wonderful! We found a shady table down the by the adult pool to sit with our ice cream.

All day today (& every other day) the Mickey pool is jam packed with tons of kids & adults. I don't know how they keep that pool clean, with all those little kids who are bound to have "accidents" in that shallow water. All the tables & chairs in that area go fast, and it's absolute bedlam...we avoid that area like the plague, grateful that our kids are teens (and even more grateful that they're with their father's this week, lol).

We headed back up to our chairs just before 2pm, and laid there watching the ocean and reading magazines until about 3pm, when we'd had enough sun for one day. We walked the deck some more, and walked a couple of laps on deck 4, then returned to the stateroom after checking out tonight's dinner menu. It looked slightly different than last month - there's even an appetizer that will be at the Animal Kingdom Lodge - but I don't remember what it was. The entree I got last month is still on the menu, so I'll get that. Most of the desserts looked new - no more koko puffs from the Kona Cafe.

We showered and dressed for Mickey's reception and the formal dinner. Dinner is the Master Chef's Series, which features popular items from various WDW and DCL restaurants. It's also our last formal night. I wore a dress I wore last month - cocktail dress with a bolero jacket, trimmed with velvet & beading at each sleeve and across the top of the dress. Sheila is wearing a satin-like pale yellow dress and jacket.

At Mickey's party they were serving bacardi coolers (rather sour tasting) and whiskey sours. We each got a bacardi cooler and found a place to sit waiting for the dining room to open. Waiters were walking around with trays of canapes - sushi & other seafood related stuff. Our dinner was in Parrot Cay, and we were the first to arrive at our table. Jelidi greeted each of us with the hand kissing thing - we could get used to that kind of treatment real easily! They don't kiss my hand at the Comedy Warehouse, or at the Main Street Bake Shop - only here.

Alan & Arlene arrived, dressed in formal attire once again. Thank goodness we got tablemates with the common decency to follow the dress code! I just don't understand those people who see everyone in tuxedos and evening gowns yet come waltzing into the dining room as if they were eating at Ponderosa! Alan & Arlene were the perfect dinner companions for me, too - they've cruised often, are very well traveled, know how the service should be, and appreciate the details. It was amazing how often their opinions and viewpoints matched exactly with mine, regardless of the topic - no wonder we got along so well I guess.

Jelidi gave us his recommendations for each course, as he has the entire cruise. That's one great thing about him - he goes above & beyond to do stuff to enhance our cruise. When the meal is finished he tells us what to see later that night, what not to miss the next day, etc. On the last cruise I think our server said "bye" and that's about it! We also met Jelidi's brother - he's also a server working the same rotation. At first we didn't believe him (he's such a kidder), but the put both of their cast member id's on the table so we could see the last name was the same - and there is a very strong resemblance.

Dinner was very good, once again. For an appetizer I got the mixed field greens from Artist Point at Wilderness Lodge, and the other 3 got the seared scallops on crispy rice cake with tomato cream from Les Chefs de France. The scallops were huge! For entrees Sheila & Alan got the rack of lamb from the Disney Wonder. Arlene ordered the mahi mahi (don't recall where it was from), and I ordered the grilled pork tenderloin on polenta from the California Grill. I'd ordered this last month, and loved it. Last month it came as thin tenderloins of pork, but this time it had 3 large chunks of pork....still very tasty but way too much food. I ate 1 of the pieces of meat and some of the polenta - very good. Dessert was the highlight, of course. Sheila and Alan got the warm apple strudel with vanilla ice cream. Arlene & I got the chocolate coffee tart on hazelnut crust with vanilla sauce from the Grand Floridian pastry chef. It was huge - 2 large triangles of rich chocolate fudge with a coffee taste mixed in, with the vanilla sauce on the side swirled with chocolate. A small dab of whipped cream and a strawberry completed the plate. I could only eat 1 of the pieces, and asked Jelidi if I could take the other piece with me. He said yes, but he was getting me a new one - I wouldn't be taking that old one with me, lol - and he brought out a whole new order complete with the metal cover. He took a napkin and folded it into one of Peter Pan's shoes, and gave me a couple of spoons (Sheila's going to have to help eat this).

We walked back to the stateroom behind Alan & Arlene - they're just down the hall from us. They've had trouble with their steward...she seems to be overwhelmed and they're just not getting acceptable service. Ours is somewhat hit and miss, but nowhere near as bad as theirs.

We entered the stateroom, and found 2 creatures! A blanket turtle was on my bed, and a towel dog was on Sheila's - they were both cute! We put the chocolate tart thing in the refrigerator and headed upstairs to walk around deck 4 a while until it was time for Disney Dreams. This show was very good - much better than Hercules or C'est Magique. The only bad part was the dozens of morons who ignored the "no flash photography" announcement and were flashing away. I felt like I was in a lightning storm...it was pretty bad. I would have preferred they stop the show and repeat the announcement - bring the house lights up, and make people know they're serious. It's not only distracting to other guests, it's dangerous for the actors.

After the show we headed straight to Rockin' Bar D for tonight's cabaret show. Chuck Gunter was a comic juggler, and besides being very cute (about 25 years old) and was both funny and and excellent juggler. He did the usual sticks, balls, fire, knives, and sports equipment. What sets the entertainment on Disney apart from other cruise lines is the way the entertainer engages the audience in the show. It's very interactive and a lot more fun. I wish I'd brought the camcorder to tape the show (didn't bother to bring it this cruise), as Chris would have loved it!

We stopped by Off Beat, the dueling piano place briefly, but it was the same old thing there...I know the improv comedy club they used to have there really stunk most of the time, but I wish they had just made it better rather than doing away with it! We decided to return to the stateroom to get changed out of our formal clothes and high heels. Tonight is the tour of the galley (kitchen) at midnight, and no way was I traipsing thru a kitchen in heels! After changing we went up on deck and walked for about an hour, until it was time for the tour.

The galley tour started in Lumiere's. They took people in groups of 25 and gave us to one of the chefs. We were in the first group, and were taken through by Ernst from Austria - he's I charge of Lumiere's kitchen & did a good job. The galley is just your basic kitchen - if you've never been in the kitchen of a cruise ship or restaurant (I've been in both) it would probably be more impressive, but the tour wasn't much different than you'd see on any other cruise ship. He did mention they serve 10,000+ meals to passengers daily, excluding the fast food (pizza, burgers) stuff. They buy all their food at Port Canaveral, bringing on $250,000 worth of food each Saturday. All the prep work is done down on deck A, and the food comes up to the appropriate kitchen ready to be cooked.

At the end of the tour they had a bunch of food prepared - another full buffet! Ugh. Sheila took some french fries, and I grabbed an onion ring and couple bites of fettuccine. We were seated in Parrot Cay, with waiters to put our napkins in our lap, carry our plates, and serve us drinks. There was a dessert bar also - time for another chocolate chip cookie! We were seated with others, and talked to them while we ate.

Today was a great day - with perfect weather. Hopefully tomorrow at Castaway Cay will also be nice & sunny. Tonight we talked about our plans for tomorrow. We're not due to go ashore until 9:30, and that's also the time to meet for the 2.5 mile "power walk" on the island. Sheila decided she wasn't up for doing that, after doing the walk a mile on the ship, so she'll take our stuff to Serenity Bay (adult beach) and I'll meet her there after the power walk.

DAY 8 - FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2000:

Plan: Castaway Cay, International Dinner

Actual: The alarm went off at 7, waking me up. It was very cloudy, so it was dark still. Hopefully the weather will clear up so we don't have a crappy beach day! After getting into our swim suits we climbed up to deck 9 for breakfast at Topsiders. Sheila got some Mickey waffles from Scoops on the way in, then added some stuff from the buffet. I got some fruit & did my yogurt/granola thing. We pulled into Castaway Cay while we were eating, but it took quite a while to dock the ship. I guess they have to be much more careful than the people driving the boats at WDW - they just crash into the dock and secure the rope!

After breakfast we went do deck 4 for the Walk a Mile - today Jenny led the walk again, and one of the women from earlier in the week joined us. It wasn't much of a fitness walk - it was more like 4 women just strolling & talking, but the Power Walk on the island should be faster paced. Many passengers were out on the decks watching the docking procedure. Our stateroom is on the other side of the ship, so our view is the beaches and swimming/snorkel area rather than the dock. Actually, I prefer our view!

When I got up this morning I realized that in 24 hours I'd be leaving the ship, which was pretty depressing. Now I can say that in 24 hours I'll be wandering around Animal Kingdom - that's not quite so bad! The ship was ready for people to go ashore about 9:30, so we headed down 1 deck to disembark. I saw a group of people on the dock who were about to leave, so I asked a guy if they were the power walk group, and he said yes. Yikes! I gave Sheila my bag and luckily had talked to her yesterday about where to go & how to get there, so I joined the group.

This power walk wasn't much of a "walk". The crew member who led it had really long legs and walked very quickly. Many of us had to keep jogging to catch up - it was that fast! I started talking to the guy next to me, who'd also been on the mountain bike tour with us. His partner was the guy who had to ride part way, but he was fine now. Anyway, it turned out they are vacation club members who live in Tampa, so we had lots to talk about as we were speed walking and jogging to keep up with the leader. He'd talked to a travel agent on board who said that Disney plans to be doing Alaska cruises probably in 2005, which is something to keep in mind - especially if they offer any special deals for DVC members to get the first few cruises filled! He also mentioned they'd eaten in Palo every night, and have never met their dining room steward or assistant - but have loved Palo. They show up each night and get any cancellations or no-shows, they didn't make 7 reservations! I couldn't believe it when the crew member said we'd finished the 2.5 miles, and she offered to take us to the end of the other trail (another 20 minutes round trip), so we walked there also. We could see the crew beach from where we ended - she was very complimentary of the way Disney treats them...much better than any other cruise line, and there's a waiting list of people wanting jobs with Disney.

We got back to Serenity Bay (the adult beach) and I walked out to the beach to find Sheila. She'd dropped our stuff on chairs right by the entrance, so I'd see it, but it was a crappy location. We were behind people, and both chairs were under the umbrella (I wanted sun, not shade). So, I took part of our stuff and got the nearest chairs with an umbrella for Sheila further down the beach - a long ways, but it was worth it. We no longer had people in front of or behind us, and people were much more spread out. We had a perfect unubstructed view of the water - just the way it should be. Last month I was on the family beach because we had kids with us, and I was with my DVC friends. I'll NEVER go to that beach again...unless I'm traveling with DVC friends and stay with them. It's shoulder to shoulder people, and the water is crowded also. At Serenity Bay you have tons of room, and it's nice & quiet.

We had the waitress bring us a mudslide, which was all melted by the time she walked it back to us...not a very good idea. We floated on our rafts, and saw some people we knew. Eventually it got very dark over by the ship, and we even heard thunder. In retrospect it was stupid, but we decided to take the tram back to the main part to do some shopping & take pictures, but leave our stuff at Serenity Bay and come back there. The tram ride was fine, and we fought our way through the crowds to shop and take the pics, then stopped at Cookie's BBQ. The lines were long, and when the thunder started again we decided to just eat back at our beach...some items were different, but many were the same.

We took the tram back, and got there just before 1:30. Our food closes at 1:30, and Cookie's closes at 2. We got a couple of cheeseburgers and some fruit, and ate at a picnic table there. We walked back to our chairs to gather up our stuff and walked back dragging our floats - what a pain! We rode the tram back to the main part and then walked back to the ship, getting on board between 2 & 3pm. I would have liked to spend more time on my raft, but not if it isn't sunny! The weather really cut our day short :(

We started packing up some of our stuff. Sheila had 2 of her 3 cases of water still not opened, and I had a complete 12-pack plus maybe 1/2 dozen larger bottles left over. Next time we'll be a little more conservative, lol! I pity the man who tries to lift our suitcases!

We headed upstairs, chatted with Marti a bit, and then went to get a glass of wine. We ended up in Promenades Lounge, which I avoid like the plague since there are always smokers in there. The waiter was very chatty - asking us where we were from and what we do for a living. Turns out the lady sitting next to us (smoking, no less) is also from Ft Myers, and lives midway between Sheila & me...in our part of town. Small world.

We took our wine and went out on deck to watch them finish preparing the ship for sailing. After they unhooked the last of the ropes we drifted away from the dock. They sounded the ship's horn 3 times, and the cast on the island wore Mickey gloves and waved to us as we sailed away - very nice. It's so sad realizing this is the last time we're sailing away (this cruise)...next stop they're throwing us off the ship!

Just before 6 we went downstairs to Lumiere's. We both wore floral dresses tonight - mine is almost ankle length, and Sheila's is knee length. Tonight's menu was an international one celebrating the heritage of the crew - It's a Small World. Jelidi greeted us with the hand kissing thing, and soon Alan & Arlene arrived. We had lots of laughs with them again tonight - that Alan is one funny guy! For appetizers I got the Greek salad, which was excellent. The other 3 got the lobster bisque from France, and they all said it was too salty. Jelidi brought Sheila some tomatoes & cucumber instead, and Alan/Arlene shared a Greek salad. For main course Sheila and Arlene got the salmon, Alan the Mediterranean seafood stew (paella), and I ordered the Indian roasted chicken. The salmon was wonderful, and the paella was reported to be very good. My chicken was dark meat though, and I don't like dark meat. I asked Jelidi if there were any chicken breasts, and they only made this entree with legs so he brought me a regular grilled boneless chicken breast with some yellow rice. The chicken was very moist & delicious. For dessert Alan & Arlene got the chocolate tart, which I would have gotten except that it had apricot in it - I don't like apricot, but thought the dessert would have been wonderful with raspberry! Sheila got the bread & butter pudding from England, which she said was good despite not being warm. She'd never had chilled bread pudding before. I got the apple pie with vanilla ice cream from Canada. Jelidi couldn't figure out why it would be listed from Canada, since apple pie is an American staple, but it was unlike our traditional apple pie. It had 2 cake-like crusts - top & bottom, with apple in between, but not sliced apples like in our pie. It tasted great though.

Also on the menu was baked Alaska, and the kitchen crew paraded around the dining room with the flaming baked alaska, followed by all the servers waving flags of their countries. It was very festive - and set to the music of It's a Small World. Alan and I both commented "Thank god they're not making people actually eat that baked alaska crap", lol - since on most other lines that is the only dessert when they do it! It was nice to be able to choose baked alaska or one of the other 4-5 items. My son Chris likes it...but I can't stand the stuff!

We gave our tips to Jelidi & Willy - and got big hugs from Jelidi. I think Sheila wanted to take him home with her, and who can blame her! I put dibs on his older (27 year old) brother <g>. On the way out we gave head waiter Christophe his tip, and then stopped at the cabin to find Allan our steward to give him his envelope. That done, we went upstairs to the shop to see if they sold souvenir menus - but they do not. It's customary on other lines for them to be given at no charge upon request, but evidently Disney doesn't do this. In the shop a woman approached me to ask some DVC related questions (she'd been at the DVC update earlier when I spoke), so we talked for a little bit.

We decided to walk on the deck, but once up on deck 9 we saw the deck was soaking wet - from them cleaning. We headed back to deck 4, and it was now raining really hard! The rain & wind was blowing at one side of the ship, and we weren't able to go out on deck without getting wet, so we turned around to come back inside. As Sheila was coming through the 2nd set of doors, someone opened the door at the other end of the hall, creating a vacuum effect, which caused the door behind her to slam shut - throwing her into the hallway like a projectile and slamming shut with a very loud BANG! LOL - It was hysterical (she was laughing too) and everyone waiting for the elevators looked to see who the idiots were who they thought had slammed the door.

She went to get our seats in the theater for tonight's show, while I ran downstairs to update the report a bit. I met her about 15 minutes before the show, and a man across the aisle came over to say he thought I should be working for DVC (he was at the update earlier this week also), and wanted to know if he could ask me some questions. They'd signed the papers to join yesterday, but living in California they plan to use their DVC a little differently than I use mine (more trading out). They're on aol, so I got his screen name and will send him the link to our DVC board over there.

The show tonight was a Farewell Variety Show, and it was pretty good. We had the Magic singers/dancers do a song with some characters, then a juggler riding a unicycle, then the guy we saw a few nights ago (kind of a comic), and then the juggler from last night, followed by all 11 characters on board. They made it snow in the lower part of the theater - using the same soapy snow they use in the parks.

After the show we wandered around, then went to the atrium to wait for the characters to appear to wave goodbye to everyone. I tried taking a couple of pictures, but they came out pretty dark. The digital camera just doesn't do well long distances indoors.

We returned to the stateroom to finish packing, and put our luggage outside in the hall. We ate most of that dessert from last night...Sheila thought it was too rich, so I ended up eating the majority of it, then washed it down with 1/2 cup of cappuccino. She asked if I wanted a cup of hot chocolate, and like an idiot I said no - I don't want the caffeine....duh, after eating rich chocolate coffee tart, lol! Oh well <g>.

I put in a wakeup call for 5:30, we watched the debarkation talk on tv, and filled out the comment card - then turned in for the night.

DAY 9 - SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2000:

Plan: Disembark, Spend day at WDW, drive home

Actual: It was difficult sleeping last night. I knew I had to get up early, and didn't want to oversleep, so as a result I was awake often. About 3 or 4 am I used the bathroom light to check the time on my watch, and when I came out of the bathroom I saw white water outside our window. Thinking it odd that I'd see white water up so high, I went over to take a closer look - and was shocked at the BIG waves out there! I'd felt a lot of movement during the night, and had used a leg to brace myself in bed to keep from rolling. Evidently we were passing through a pretty big storm, which really churned the water up. I never felt unsafe though, and considered it to be part of the fun...a bit of excitement to end the cruise. Sheila later said she was awakened by a loud bang on the outside of the ship - must have been one heck of a wave to wake her up! It was pretty wild. She was glad this happened on the last night, and not the first, lol!

I got up at 5:30 and after getting cleaned up & dressed I made one last cup of cappuccino and climbed up to deck 9 for some walking. Sheila was all walked out...she opted to stay in the stateroom. Deck 9 was pretty much desserted, and I also walked around on deck 4 and watched them offloading the luggage in great big bins. Just before 6:45 I returned to the stateroom and we headed up to Lumiere's for our final breakfast. Alan & Arlene were already seated, and our last meal together was rather somber. Jelidi kissed our hands for the last time, and gave us both big hugs before we left. Sheila really wanted to take him home with her <g>.

Neither one of us had a very exciting breakfast - muffin for Sheila, bagel for me. We were out in the atrium at 7:20, expecting they'd open the doors to let us off the ship at 7:30 like they had last month on the Wonder. There was already quite a line, and it grew longer & longer! They ended up not clearing the ship until 8am, so we stood there impatiently for 40 minutes - a terrible way to end a wonderful cruise :(

The baggage claim process was much easier. Last month I was on deck 7, which is the Red zone. Red is the biggest area, and is the most difficult in which to find your luggage. This time we were on deck 2, which is purple, and it was very easy. We got our stuff, loaded it in the car, and were pulling into OKW by 9:10 or so. Angelo was working the bell services desk, and he always remembers me. He had one of the cm's put my luggage in the "cage", we chatted briefly, and then I went to call Linda (elfriar) to let her know we were on property. We set a meeting time, and then Sheila & I drove over to Animal Kingdom. I saw in the OKW gift shop they'd marked down a lot of the OKW logo clothing, including the dark blue jacket (from $95 to $49.99). I tried it on, and will give it some thought before we return later.

At AK we rode Dinosaur first, with a very short wait. From there we walked to Harambe and picked up 3 fast passes for Kilamanjaro Safari with a return time in about 45 minutes (10:55). We were both pretty tired, so we set out in search of iced cappuccino for the caffeine. Back near the beginning of the park we found a cart that had frozen coffee, so we headed over. The cm gave us a sample to try, and we liked it, so we each got a frozen mocha coffee ($2.39). It's eaten with a spoon rather than drank, and it was delicious. We headed back to Harambe to sit at that outdoor bar with our coffee. Linda arrived shortly, and we sat around talking until it was time for the safari. Linda's a major pin trader both here and at Disneyland, and she'd asked for some pins I'd gotten her on the cruise ship. Around 11 we all rode the safari, where we saw many of the animals despite the late hour.

We all decided to leave AK for Epcot. Linda was meeting some pin trading friends for lunch, and Sheila & I had a few rides we wanted to do. We drove over, and walked right in. First stop was Spaceship Earth, which surprisingly had practically no line. Afterwards we stopped in Innoventions and found Hugh (hughstrom) working. He remembered who I was, and we talked for a while. It sounds like he LOVES his job, and life in Celebration! Eventually we said goodbye for now, and Sheila commented how all of my DVC friends and internet people she's met have been so nice & friendly. See - the internet isn't all weirdos, lol!

We went to Test Track next, but it was broken down. We got in the single rider line anyway, and it started up within a few minutes. We were in and out of there in no time. Fast passes were still available - for 2 hours later. We stopped in Mouse Gear next, and I got a new pair of WDW sunglasses and a Mickey Mouse strap to put on them. My current sunglasses are old & beat up, so they needed to retire.

We headed to World Showcase and had lunch at the Tangierine Cafe (tomato & cucumber salad - but no wine today). The Friendship boat was at the dock when we finished, so we rode back to save time. The driver was very good - she gave lots of narrative explaining what we were passing. We decided to leave Epcot and start the trip home. First we stopped at OKW and I bought the jacket. I may bring it back in November and have DVC member embroidered on it down at the Marketplace. I got the laptop back and said goodbye to Angelo until next month. On the way to the car another bell services person saw me and said it was nice to see me back again...Sheila thought it was strange that even the bell services people remember me. Actually, I only use them to store my laptop & camcorder - since I drive I handle my own luggage. Maybe they like earning a tip without having to lug heavy suitcases up stairs into the units or something - but more likely they're just genuinely friendly cast members.

We drove to Sebring to Sheila's parents house to pick up her dog (they'd been dog sitting) and their dog. They're leaving on a cruise tomorrow! We visited with them for a little while - they're both really nice people. From there it was another 1.5 hours to my house, and I got there shortly after 6. Chris was waiting out front for me, and helped me carry my stuff inside.

Waiting for me was the guest opinion survey from my All Star Sports stay, and the paperwork for my latest DVC points purchase (made the day before I left on vacation). Disney mail is always good <g>. Also I had discounted cruise offers from Holland America and Princess...tossed the Princess mail, but will find time to look over HAL for future planning. I need to plan another cruise - either Disney or HAL.

SUMMARY:

The pictures from the cruise are now on www.photopoint.com Once there, use my full email address (WDW1972@aol.com) to see my albums, and select the Magic Cruise. There are quite a few, so feel free to take a look if you're interested.

In a word, the cruise was MAGICal, lol! It truly exceeded my expectations in almost every way. I was concerned that the Disney experience would be inferior to Holland America, but it was not. It was different in some ways, and each line has things that they do that I like better than the other line, but overall I would not hesitate to book either one. This is just my personal opinion though, based on what I look for in a cruise, and these lines may not be appropriate for everyone. Hopefully I've been detailed enough that you can draw your own conclusions for yourselves & your families.

The ship was beautiful - and having just sailed on the Wonder last month I already knew where everything was. The 7 day itinerary was fantastic - I love the 3 days at sea, and love that we don't have to stop at (disgusting) Nassau. St Thomas is clean & safe, and is the better of the 2 ports in my opinion. Next time I plan to visit the French side of St Maarten to see if that's any better than the Dutch side, and will visit St John to do the eco-hike on our St Thomas day.

We had some lousy weather, particularly on the St Thomas day. If this was a once in a lifetime vacation for me I might have been upset, but I realize that vacationing as often as I do - I've got to expect bad weather once in a while, so it's no big deal. I'll be back, and eventually will hit St Thomas on a sunny day.

Sheila was an excellent travel companion. She was a willing participant in all the fitness stuff (she'd have done something else if she wanted to), doesn't snore (no snorers will EVER go on a trip with me unless they get their own stateroom/hotel room) and we generally have the same interests on vacation. Our dinner companions couldn't have been better - I loved our meals with Alan & Arlene, especially Alan's sense of humor. I was never sure if he was serious or kidding, so I just assumed he was joking & shot back comments accordingly, lol (he was kidding). Our serving team - Jelidi & Willy were so much better than the team I had last month. Jelidi was not only charming (those young French guys - who can resist them??), he was efficient, friendly, and went out of his way to ensure our dinners were absolute perfection! We ran into him frequently in other food places & on Castaway Cay, and he always had a big grin & wave for us - calling us Madame Susan and Madame Sheila. We hated to leave him behind, lol!

The entertainment was better than expected, even though I was not impressed with a couple of the shows. C'est Magique still needs work, and Hercules was no thrill. Sheila really like Disney Dreams, and both variety shows (welcome aboard and farewell) were fun. We stayed in the adult areas whenever possible - and generally that worked well. Our section of the dining room only had 1 kid - and he was very well behaved. Other sections were loaded with kids, strollers, etc - and all 4 of us were very grateful to NOT be near that bedlam! I don't think either of us has any interest in being around kids on a cruise unless we're sailing with our grandchildren some day, lol!

The adult pool was quiet & peaceful, even though the other pools were crowded & active. The food at dinner was excellent - better than last month. The lunch buffets weren't too exciting, and the pizza didn't look as good as last month. No more chicken strips at the outdoor place - now there's chicken wings and caesar salads instead. I feel like I met an awful lot of people on the ship, which was a lot of fun! Normally I'm not real outgoing, but on the ship it was so easy to strike up conversations with strangers, and then running into those people again & again was fun.

I'll definitely be doing this cruise again - either with or without Chris depending on how he's doing in school and what my other plans are. For now I have no more cruises booked... I do have several WDW & DVC trips booked. I'll be at WDW (staying at the new Fairfield Inn right outside) for 2 nights later in October partly on business, and then return 10/30 for 2 more business nights at Fairfield Inn before moving into OKW for 11 days. I'm really looking forward to that trip - it's got a trip within the trip imbedded in there. 13 of my friends from around the country are all visiting WDW together, and I'll be celebrating my birthday with them, so it'll be lots of fun! Before and after those days I'll spend some solo time and hope to meet a group of DVC friends and spend time with individual friends who live locally.

DISAPPOINTMENTS: (all minor stuff - nothing that will keep me from re-booking!)

  • Rain in St Thomas all day, and part of previous afternoon in St Maarten
  • People bringing kids to shows when they don't have the attention span and then they disrupt everyone around them when they have to leave during the show. Might as well add people who let their kids run wild, climb on furniture, jump down flights of stairs, etc. I guess I was a mean mom with Chris, but at least he can conduct himself appropriately in public!
  • The adult program - Disney Behind the Scenes was really boring, which was a big surprise. I'll try it again next cruise though, as I think it's good or bad depending on the presenter and the topic (changes each cruise).

MAGICAL MOMENTS:

  • Jelidi & Willy, our servers. Who's going to kiss my hand when I arrive for a meal now??
  • The food was excellent - especially the warm chocolate lava cake, and the white chocolate cheesecake on macadamia nut crust, and the chocolate hazelnut souffle in Palo! Worth a few pounds, for sure!
  • All the special perks and freebies!!
  • Knowing that I can and will use my DVC points to book the 7 day cruise again - as often as I can afford the time & points for the next 41 years. Gotta love that DVC!

I may have missed stuff, but I'm too tired to think straight at this point! Thanks for reading, and until next time - Sue Holland

Sue Holland

wdw1972@aol.com


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